There are many common asthma triggers indoors such as dust mites, mold, pet dander and roach droppings.
People who have seasonal allergies often view winter as a time of year to catch a break. The lack of airborne pollens and grasses has many of them breathing a sigh of relief. But for some people with asthma, who are sensitive to indoor allergens, the wind and cold are just backdrops to a season of misery.
Spending more time indoors during winter means more exposure to dust, pet dander, mold, cockroaches and other allergens.
Asthma triggers cause airways to swell and narrow, making it hard to breathe. About 20 million Americans have asthma, and more than 70 percent of them also have allergies. About 10 million have allergic asthma, asthma attacks that are triggered by allergens.
The condition takes its toll on kids and adults.
Kids miss about 14.7 million school days each year due to asthma.
Adults miss about 24.5 million days of work yearly.
The incidence of asthma continues to rise. But you can help prevent allergy-induced asthma symptoms in the home.
What you can do
Control dust mites:
Dust mites are tiny bugs that live in dust. They are mostly found in mattresses, pillows, carpet and bedding. Their droppings are a common allergy and asthma trigger. Be sure to:
Cover mattresses and pillows with airtight covers.
Keep household humidity below 40 percent.
Remove carpets, rugs and heavy curtains from bedrooms.
Wash bedding in hot water every seven to 10 days; dry in a hot dryer.
Remove extra clutter from your home that will collect dust.
Dust weekly with a damp cloth.
Wear a respirator when you dust.
Vacuum rugs and carpets at least once per week.
Molds are microscopic fungi with spores that float in the air. Mold grows in moist places during the winter or areas that may not be routinely cleaned and disinfected:
- Refrigerator seals
- Air vents
- Under kitchen sinks
- Shower ceilings
To get rid of mold:
Scrub suspect areas with a cleaning solution of 5 percent bleach and a little detergent.
Fix leaks that may leave surfaces wet and foster mold growth.
Upgrade air filters.
Vent all moisture-producing appliances to the outside.
Run kitchen or bath fans to vent moisture outside or open windows when cooking or showering.
A protein in cockroach droppings triggers symptoms. Clean practices can help.
Vacuum or sweep the floor after meals.
Take garbage and recyclables out frequently.
Keep food in containers with tight lids.
Wash dishes right after use with hot, soapy water.
Clean under stoves, refrigerators or toasters where loose crumbs can hide.
Clean stove tops, surfaces and cupboards regularly.
Block areas where roaches can enter, such as:
- Wall cracks
- Floor gaps
- Cellar and outside doors
If you can't find a loving home for your pet:
Keep it out of your bedroom and off furniture.
Have someone wash and brush it weekly.
Asthmatics with increased symptoms from indoor allergens should speak to a doctor.
Your doctor may tell you to increase your asthma medication to avoid complications.
American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Asthma statistics. Accessed: 11/13/2008
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. National Asthma Education and Prevention Program. Managing asthma: a guide for school. Accessed: 11/13/2008
American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Preparing your home for battle: fighting indoor allergies. Accessed: 11/13/2008
Public Health Agency of Canada. What do I need to know about asthma triggers? Accessed: 11/13/2008