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Have Asthma? 6 Ways To Improve Your Indoor Air Quality

Dust mites, mold and even the family dog can affect your breathing. Take these steps to keep allergens in check.

Woman uses inhaler while working at laptop.

Medically reviewed in December 2021

Updated on April 7, 2022

It’s thought that Americans pass about 90 percent of our time indoors, usually at home. And when you have asthma, the quality of your home’s air can have a big effect on your health. Allergens, scents and air pollution may trigger asthma symptoms and even worsen your condition.

The worst culprits include pet dander, cockroaches, mold and dust mites, which are microscopic creatures that tend to live in bedding, furniture and carpet. Secondhand smoke and burning wood are also big-time offenders. Here’s how to help keep them—and other asthma triggers—in check at home.

Clean up
The number one way to reduce allergens is maintaining a tidy house. So, keep clutter to a minimum and take care to vacuum, dust, mop and wipe surfaces regularly. Deep clean carpets yearly. Pay special attention to bathrooms and kitchens—especially in areas where mold can grow. Clean messes promptly, and don’t leave food or standing water out in the open. If you or a family member have a dust mite or pet allergy, wash bedding and pillows weekly, using very hot water.

Ventilate well and adjust humidity
Good air circulation can keep excess moisture down and hinder allergens from building up indoors. Run exhaust fans when you cook or bathe, and make sure dryers vent outside. Don’t allow humidity to go too low—which can raise chances of a respiratory infection—or too high, which promotes mold and dust mites. Shoot for an indoor humidity level of 30 to 50 percent. If you use a humidifier, clean it regularly.

Slash smoke
Secondhand smoke contributes to lung cancer, heart disease and many other illnesses. So, whether you have asthma or not, keep your home and car smoke-free. Ask smokers to go outside when they light up. This also goes for secondhand vapor and people who vape. Avoid burning wood inside; close windows and run fans or the air conditioner if there is a nearby fire outside.

Quell the smell
Since air quality can be affected by fumes from household goods, limit or avoid odor-masking items like candles, air fresheners and potpourri. Choose unscented cleaning products when you can, and always follow directions. Don’t store paints or solvents inside, either; sheds and detached garages are better options.

Hire a professional
While a little DIY can go a long way towards improving air quality, bring in an expert for bigger jobs. For example, a plumber can fix large leaks, helping to keep mold in check. Carpet removers can take away your shag rugs, so dust mites can’t set up shop. And if you have a known pest infestation, an exterminator is the way to go.

Ask an allergist
Whether you want to quit smoking or your cat is making your child sick, speak with a healthcare provider if you need help dealing with asthma issues. They can recommend steps and refer you to experts for guidance. They can also set you and your family up with an asthma action plan in case of an emergency.

Article sources open article sources

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Asthma Triggers: Gain Control.”
Asthma Canada. “Ways to Improve Your Indoor Air Quality & Manage Asthma.”
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. “Your Questions Answered on Air Pollution and Asthma.”
Asthma and Alllergy Foundation of America. “What Is Indoor Air Quality?”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Indoor Asthma Triggers.”
American Lung Association. “Dust Mites,” “Cockroaches,” “Mold and Dampness,” “Secondhand Smoke,” “Residential Wood Burning,” “Cleaning Supplies and Household Chemicals,” “Avoiding and Controlling Asthma Triggers,” “Keep Pollution Out of Your Home,” “Asthma in Schools: The Basics for Parents.

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