Is Your Home Making Your Asthma Worse?

by Jennifer Mitchell Wilson B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

If you have asthma, it can seem as if the entire world is one big trigger. When that trigger comes from your home, it can make asthma control difficult--if not impossible--to achieve. Identifying and eliminating triggers in your home can help those with asthma breathe better on a daily basis.

Check out some of the most common in-home triggers and how to eliminate them.

Dust mites

These tricky little critters live off of old skin cells in your bedding, pillows, couches or other fabrics. Unfortunately, these things cause big problems with allergies and asthma in many people. Washing your bedding in hot water weekly can help to limit their numbers. Dust mite covers can be purchased at most super centers and provide a barrier between you and the dust mites. This also helps eliminate the possibility of a reaction.


Gross but true: cockroaches can trigger asthma symptoms in those who are allergic to them. Cockroach saliva, waste products and even dead cockroaches can all cause issues because they contain a protein that is an allergen for many people. Getting rid of any infestation and properly cleaning what is left behind can be key in eliminating symptoms caused by these nasty critters.

To prevent cockroaches in the first place, cover all trash can lids, store food in airtight containers, promptly clean dirty dishes, sweep up food crumbs, don’t leave out pet food, fix leaky pipes, seal cracks that could provide entry for the bugs and set out sticky traps to catch any sneaky intruders.

Indoor mold

Mold can be an issue when it's in the outside air, but is even more so when it is a daily part of your home. You can have your house tested for mold if you think there might be a larger issue. Keeping humidity at a constant 40-50 percent can help limit the growth of mold, as well as bacteria or viruses. This constant humidity can be accomplished by using a dehumidifier and measuring the humidity with a hydrometer when in a humid climate. We bought one for less than $15 at our local hardware store. Air that is too dry can also be an issue, so don't skip the hydrometer.

Stove ventilation

The journal Environmental Health notes significant associations between proper ventilation of gas stoves and incidence of asthma. In homes where proper ventilation is used, the children are 32 percent less likely to have asthma. When the gas stove is used, with the proper ventilation, children were 44 percent less likely to have asthma. Children with existing asthma symptoms also had better lung function, less wheezing, and fewer episodes of bronchitis in homes that used proper ventilation.

While the prevalence of improperly vented gas stoves is not clear, it is estimated that almost half of American homes use gas stoves. If you have children in your home, whether they have asthma or not, it is important to make sure your gas stove has the proper ventilation.

Chemical and fragrance triggers

There are many chemicals and fragrances used with in the home that can become huge asthma triggers. Bleach, cleaning agents, insecticides, laundry soaps, dryer sheets and numerous other items can trigger an attack in people with asthma who are sensitive to them. If you have children with asthma (as we do) it can help to do all cleaning when they are not home. Be sure to use proper ventilation and cover your mouth and nose with a mask if you have asthma and are in charge of the cleaning. Purchasing fragrance-free products and eliminating perfumes, candles or scented room fresheners can also help many people with asthma.

Additional tips

A high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter can also help to limit exposure to allergens in the home. These filters can be placed on your existing central heat and air, used in your vacuum, or used as part of a free-standing air purifier. Don't underestimate the value of these filters. We noticed a significant change in our daughter's home symptoms when we replaced our filters with HEPA filters and purchased a free-standing air purifier.

Jennifer has a bachelor's degree in dietetics as well as graduate work in public health and nutrition. She has worked with families dealing with digestive disease, asthma and food allergies for the past 12 years. Jennifer also serves the Board of Directors for Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association (PAGER).



Jennifer Mitchell Wilson
Meet Our Writer
Jennifer Mitchell Wilson

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson is a dietitian and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.