Improving indoor air for people with asthma
Post Date
23rd May 2014
Improving indoor air for people with asthma

Current figures from the Federal Government suggest that Australians spend 90 per cent of their time indoors.

This makes indoor air very significant to the quality of life of over two million people who suffer from asthma.

Air that is free of irritants and pollutants is very important for asthmatics. Here’s how to filter out the impurities in the air around you for a healthier home.

Asthma triggers

Asthma is a disease of the airways, the small tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. When asthma occurs, the muscles in the airways tighten and the lining of the airways swell and create mucus. This causes the airways to narrow, making it difficult to breathe. Common asthma triggers include:

  • Colds (these viruses cause up to 80% of asthma attacks)
  • Pets (the second most common trigger)
  • Common allergens, such as dust mites, pollen or mould
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Cold air and temperature changes
  • Air pollution
  • Certain medicines, including aspirin and beta-blockers
  • Strong emotions, such as stress, or crying and laughter in children
  • Exercise

Indoor irritants

Your home, office, local shopping centre or school – in fact, any indoor environment – can harbour indoor irritants and allergens that can trigger asthma symptoms or make them feel worse. These include:

  • Cigarette smoke, especially second-hand smoke for young children
  • Mould
  • Dust mites
  • Cockroaches and pests
  • Pets
  • Chemicals, such as nitrogen dioxide from gas appliances

Improving indoor air quality

Controlling the air quality in your home can reduce allergy and asthma triggers. Here are some useful ways to reduce asthma aggravators:

  • Stop smoking - Smoking and second-hand smoke is especially dangerous if you have asthma because of your sensitive airways. Give cigarettes a wide berth, or avoid smoking indoors, around children and in poorly ventilated areas.
  • Increase ventilation - Circulating air from outside your house into the interior can lower indoor pollution levels. Also, make sure that any fuel-burning appliances are vented to the outside.
  • Get rid of mould - Mould can make asthma worse and can be found anywhere there is dampness in your home, such as the bathroom, and places with poor ventilation, such as built-in wardrobes. Clean any visible mould with bleach, then keep moisture under control using exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom, fixing leaking roofs and removing indoor plants.
  • Kill dust mites - These tiny bugs feed on human skin flakes, and they love warm, moist environments such as bedding. To banish dust mites, wash bedding and soft furnishings in hot water (above 55°C) once a week, use allergen-proof covers on pillows, doonas and mattresses, and clean carpets and furniture weekly using a vacuum with a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter.
  • Contain pests - Droppings or body parts of cockroaches and other pests can trigger asthma attacks, so make sure surfaces are clean and free of clutter to keep them as pest-free as possible. Clean up dishes, crumbs and spills right away, store food in airtight containers and seal cracks or openings around or inside cabinets.
  • Keep pets outside - If the allergens in your pet’s sweat, saliva, faeces, skin flakes or hair trigger your asthma symptoms, finding another home for your pet may be the best possible solution. If that’s just too hard to contemplate, then try to keep pets outside. If they must come indoors, keep them out of your bedroom.
  • Use harsh chemicals outside - If you have a reason to use harsh chemicals and sprays, try to use them outside rather than inside the house. If the chemical must be used indoors, make sure the area is well-ventilated and keep children away from the area until the air is clear.