Asthma and Healthy Homes

Most people spend about 90% of their time indoors with a large part of that time in the home. If you or someone you love has asthma, there are some triggers (things that make asthma worse) you should know. These triggers are common where you live.

Common triggers found in the home and what you can do about them:

1) Tobacco smoke
Smoking, or being around someone else who is smoking, makes asthma much harder to control and can cause severe asthma attacks. Here's more information on Asthma and Smoking.

What can you do?
Take the Smoke-Free Homes Pledge. Do not allow smoking in your house or apartment. If you would like help quitting smoking you can contact The Quit Link. There is a housing registry where you can search for smoke free housing.

2) Wood smoke
Many Mainers use wood to heat their homes especially in the winter months.

What can you do? Burn only clean dry wood. Be sure your stove or fireplace is in good working condition. Store wood outside, not in the basement or garage to prevent dampness that can lead to mold (another common trigger.)

3) Mold
Mold grows naturally in Maine. It feeds off moisture and food sources like sheet rock and wood.

What can you do? Clean up any spills or water leaks at once. Clean small areas of mold that you can see with soapy water and dry after cleaning. It is not good to use strong smelling chemicals like bleach to clean mold since strong smells can also bother a person with asthma. When cooking and showering always run the exhaust fans. If you do not have a fan, open a window two inches to let in fresh air. For more information see EPA's A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture and Your Home.

4) Dust
Dust contains tiny mites that cannot be seen with the naked eye. They live in warm places and feed off dead skin flakes.

What can you do? If you have rugs, vacuum regularly. Dust your home or apartment weekly with a damp cloth. Mites like warm places like beds and furniture so wash bedding in hot water once a week. Drapes can contain a lot of dust so wash curtains and drapes on a regular basis. You can also use dust proof bed and pillow coverings.

5) Strong odors
Paints, chemicals, candles, and perfumes are all strongly scented. For many people with asthma simply being near strong smells can trigger an attack.

What can you do? If someone with asthma is bothered by strong smelling items avoid having that in the house. Store bleach, paint, cleaning supplies properly and away from where someone with asthma could come into contact with them. Do not burn candles or spray air freshners if you or someone in the home is bothered by them.

6) Furry Pets
For a lot of people pets are part of the family. Furry pets, cats especially, have dander. Dander can be an asthma trigger for some people.

What can you do? If you cannot keep the pet outside try to keep the pets in certain areas of your home or apartment and try to keep them out of the sleeping area.

7) Pollen
Pollen comes from plants, trees, and flowers. If you have an allergy to a type of pollen, breathing in that pollen can cause an asthma attack.

What can you do? Know what types of pollen cause your allergy symptoms and what time of the year that pollen is present. During your allergy season try to keep your windows closed. If possible, use an air conditioner for cooling.