According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, more than 20 million Americans have asthma, and every 1 in 4 Americans suffer from a combination of allergies and asthma. Additionally, the last few decades have seen a steady rise in asthma cases in America. One suspected cause of this increase is a corresponding rise in air pollution. Air pollution isn’t only an issue when outside. With advanced building and insulation techniques, our indoor environments have become an entirely separate environment, and in many cases, an unhealthy one. Air stays uncirculated, polluted, and stale—creating a very hostile climate for asthma-sufferers. However, there are ways to keep asthma attacks in check by making your indoor environment a safe and healthy.
Common Asthma Triggers
First, some background knowledge on what can cause an asthma attack. Asthma attacks can be triggered by outside elements, pollutants, or by internal body factors. More often than not, it is an outside agent that is to blame. The most common asthma triggers are listed below.
- Pollen: During allergy season, pollen is the number one culprit for making you sneeze, causing your nose to run, and/or giving you itchy eyes. Allergies and asthma, often times, go hand in hand. According to Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, about 50% of asthma cases are known as allergic-asthma. In terms of childhood asthma, more than 80% of children who have asthma also suffer from allergies. Therefore, as an asthma-sufferer, it is crucial to minimize your exposure to pollen, which is so tiny it can remain in the air for long periods of time. Air purifiers, especially those with HEPA filters, are excellent for cleaning the air of pollen.
- Dust Mites: These microorganisms' waste products are highly irritating to the lungs, and because of their tiny size. they are easily inhaled. These pests make their homes in upholstered furniture and bedding. Their waste products are so numerous and lightweight that moving, walking, or cleaning can cause them to become airborne and remain there. Allergy bedding, steam cleaners, dehumidifiers, and vacuums will help control dust mites from finding new residences within your home, but an air purifier can ensure you aren't breathing their waste in. (For more about dealing with dust mites, see our other articles entitled Dust Mites 101 and Dust Mites and Allergies.)
- Mildew and Mold: Keeping your home's humidity at a balanced level (between 45% and 50%) will keep mold and mildew (a form of mold) from growing and keep those tiny mold spores and bacteria from infecting your air. These pollutants can easily irritate the lungs and cause an asthma attack. A quality dehumidifier will keep your home's humidity in ideal balance year round—which in turn keeps you comfortable and worry-free.
- Pet Dander: People and pets are often times inseparable, and if this is the case in your home, you will need to do a bit more maintenance to ensure that the presence of your pet(s) isn’t adversely affecting your allergies. Some tips? Bathe pets regularly to remove outside pollutants from their fur and use baby wipes on their fur between washes to help remove pollen, dust, dirt from their coats. As a rule of thumb, keep pets off the bed and furniture. Vacuum regularly. Wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizer to help keep any amount of dander from staying in close contact with you. An air purifier will also filter the air of dander and trap hair from polluting your air.
- Smoke: Smoke is particularly bad for asthma-sufferers. Tobacco-smoking should be done outside or limited to a single room in the house that can be ventilated from the outside of the house, not through the house. Smoke air purifiers are an excellent choice if you must smoke indoors. These machines are also helpful in absorbing fireplace smoke and cooking smoke. Fireplaces are detrimental for asthmatics because of both the smoke and volatile gases released from burning wood. It is best to avoid using fireplaces if you have asthma.
- Cleaning Products: Cleaning products contain harsh chemicals that saturate the air. These chemicals are dangerous for everyone, but they are particularly dangerous for asthmatics and should be avoided or used minimally. A safe and highly effective alternative to these chemical cleaners is a steam cleaner. These machines can replace virtually every chemical cleaner in your house. They use only tap water and heat, and are very simple to operate.
- Fragrances: Whether it is scented candles, perfumes, lotions, or air fresheners, the chemicals in these products are very dangerous for asthma-sufferers. Candles are dangerous for two reasons. First, they produce smoke and, second, they release a chemical scent into the air. Perfumes and lotions should be kept to a minimum. For some people these items seem necessary, but if overused, they can prompt an asthma attack. Air fresheners just should be avoided all together in the home of an asthma-sufferer. These items saturate the air to make it smell artificially fresh and clean. When air is truly cleaned of pollutants, for example when using air purifiers for odors. there is no artificial smell. A good rule of thumb to remember when dealing with any chemical is - if it gives off a strong smell or fumes, then it can cause an asthma attack. Think of the last time you smelled paint, paint thinner, glue, fertilizer, etc. All items of this nature should be avoided.
It is important to properly handle environmental agents in your home that can cause asthma attacks. It is estimated, according to research from the Annual U.S. Prevalence Statistics for Chronic Diseases, that nearly 40,000 people miss school or work every day because of asthma. Another 30,000 people experience an asthma attack daily, and 5,000 people visit the emergency room for asthma attacks. About 1,000 people daily are admitted to the hospital due to asthma attacks, and another 11 people die due to asthma. Why become one of the statistics if you can avoid it? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
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