Most people with asthma find their symptoms get worse when they are exposed to certain triggers. Some of these triggers can be found in and around the average home. There are many ways in which you can transform your home into an asthma-friendly environment.
Asthma triggers in the home
Some of the more common household triggers include:
- dust mites – which love warm, moist conditions and thrive in bedding and carpets. Their droppings cause the allergic reaction
- moulds – which need moist environments with poor ventilation
- pollens – from trees, plants and grasses
- pets – because of their fur, skin or scales (called 'dander')
- other triggers – including cold dry air, smoke, certain foods, chemicals and perfumes.
Improve air quality for an asthma-friendly home
To improve the air quality in your home and make it asthma-friendly, make your home a smoke-free zone, and pay attention to ventilation, heating and cooling. Ideally, the air in your home should be fresh and not too humid.
Improve ventilation by:
- installing extractor fans with external vents in the kitchen, bathroom and laundry, vented externally rather than into the roof space
- using an efficient, externally vented range hood over your stove top to remove steam and cooking smells that can irritate people with asthma
- having fixed air vents in all rooms to improve air circulation
- using electric cooking appliances as they do not produce gaseous fumes, allow minimal heat loss and are easy and safe to use.
Improve heating and cooling by:
- choosing radiant heating that doesn’t collect or circulate dust
- avoiding open fires because wood smoke can be a trigger
- avoiding fan-forced ducted heating because it circulates dust
- choosing refrigerated reverse-cycle systems because they take the moisture out of the air and allow for adjustment of temperature
- avoiding evaporative cooling systems because they humidify the air
- using foil or polyester insulation
- avoiding un-flued gas heaters because they produce indoor air pollutants as a result of combustion, including nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide. They also produce water vapour that can increase the growth of moulds and dust mites.
Asthma and dust in the home
Dust contains many allergen particles. Some suggestions on how to cut down on the amount of dust in your home include:
- Avoid carpets – if choosing carpet, select short pile or loop carpet, nylon and solution dyed.
- Vacuum or mop floors daily (preferably when the person with asthma is not in the vicinity).
- Hot wash all bedding above 60 ° C every two weeks and dry in direct sunlight.
- Cut down on fluffy toys and put them in the freezer for 24 hours once a week.
- Air blankets weekly in direct sunlight.
- Use a damp cloth to dust furniture instead of dry dusting.
- Replace curtains with vertical or roller blinds, which are easier to clean.
- Put doors on any open shelving units.
- Regularly clean ceiling fans and air conditioning vents.
- Vacuum and clean furniture frequently.
Pets and an asthma-friendly home
If you don’t want to get rid of any furry pets, there are ways of minimising their impact, including:
- Have your pets live outside.
- Keep pets out of the bedrooms.
- Brush or groom pets outside.
- Wash your pets every week to reduce the spread of animal dander.
- Clean out cages or litter boxes regularly.
- Choose non-shedding or low-shedding pets.
Grow a ‘low-allergen’ garden
Ways of reducing the amount of allergens in your garden include:
- Weed regularly.
- Replace lawn with bricked or paved areas.
- Avoid rye grass.
- Choose plants that are pollinated by birds or insects, rather than plants that release their seeds into the air.
- Replace mulch with pebbles or gravel.
Where to get help
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