Asthma doesn’t get as much airtime as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. But it affects 1 in 12 Americans, which totals 8% of the population or 25 million people. In most cases, asthma is a manageable illness, but air pollution, allergies, and other triggers can make it hard for people with asthma to breathe easily.
If you or your children have asthma, you want your home to be a safe space. Unlike schools, malls, or even the outdoors on a high-pollution day, your home should help you avoid asthma attacks, not trigger them. Unfortunately, indoor air quality is often worse than outdoor air quality-but it doesn’t have to stay that way.
Luckily, you can take several simple steps to clear your home’s air. With help from these tips and with your doctor’s advice, you can create a safe space with clean air for yourself and your children.
- Get Rid of Triggers and Allergens
A variety of environmental triggers can cause an asthma attack. Those triggers are often unique to individuals-some are most sensitive to air pollution, while others are allergic to the strong scent of newspaper print. If you know what your unique triggers are, keep them out of your home. In general, you can also minimize asthma attacks by banning these from the house:
- Tobacco smoke
- Smoke from wood fires
- Scented products, including scented candles and scented detergents
- Down comforters
- Feather pillows
- Products containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), like most aerosols, paint, and cleaning supplies
Pet hair is also a common trigger. You don’t necessarily need to ban pets from your home, but you should advise any house guests to leave their pets behind. If you do have a pet and are only mildly sensitive to pet hair, vacuum frequently, change your HVAC system’s filter frequently, and keep pets out of bedrooms.
- Clean Your Air Ducts
Your air ducts circulate hot and cool air throughout your home. Over time, dust and even mold can build up in your air ducts. Pests like mice and voles can take up residence in neglected air ducts as well. Allergens from these sources spread easily through the ducts and into every room in your home.
A professional can remove all toxins and allergens from your air ducts. If a technician finds mold in your ducts, you likely have a leak in the nearby vicinity. Ask your HVAC technician to point out the area where the mold grew, and then schedule an appointment with a plumber to fix the leak.
- Change Your Air Filters
Your HVAC system has a filter that traps dust, dirt, and other debris before it circulates air through your home. Usually, you should only have to clean or change your filters every three months, but if someone in your house is particularly sensitive to dust, you should clean the filter monthly. Consider installing a HEPA filter to trap smaller particles.
- Deal With Dust Mites
You can reduce asthma-inducing dust mites before they ever reach your air filter with the following steps:
- Vacuum your floors every day, especially if you or your child is particularly sensitive to dust. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to pick up as many particles as possible; if you have an older vacuum, it might just billow dust around the room instead of sucking it up.
- Don’t purchase stuffed animals (like teddy bears) for your children. The fabric on these animals often traps dust. If your kids can’t part from their favorite animals, put the toys in the freezer for a few hours each week-the cold kills dust mites.
- Wash bed sheets, pillowcases, blankets, and duvet covers every one to two weeks.
- Instead of curtains, install easy-to-clean blinds.
- Choose vinyl, wood, or leather furniture instead of upholstered furniture. Dust furniture frequently with a damp cloth or microfiber cloth instead of a dry duster.
- Place dust-proof covers on mattresses, box springs, and pillows.
When you cut down on dust, your HVAC system won’t have to work so hard to keep dust out of the air.
- Remove Mold
Along with dust, mold is one of the top asthma-attack triggers. Mold thrives in dark, dank environments with poor circulation. To ensure mold doesn’t grow, use the ventilation fans in the bathroom, laundry, and kitchen. These fans should vent to the outside, not into the attic where the air can recirculate. Clean up water if it spills, and deal with any plumbing fixture and water heater leaks immediately.
Enjoy Your Asthma-Friendly Home
As you improve your home’s air quality, you and your loved ones should experience fewer asthma symptoms around the house and breathe easier overall. Talk to your doctor about managing your asthma, and check our blog for more tips on how to improve your home’s air quality and ventilation.