Heating, Cooking and Asthma

Dampness in housing has been linked with asthma in some people. Research has also shown that asthma symptoms were harder to control in people with homes without central heating. There is no type of heating that is best for everyone with asthma.

Ducted air heating. No medical research has been carried out on links between this type of heating and asthma. However, expert doctors have seen many patients who they would agree have worse asthma symptoms due to the ducted air heating. This could be because more house-dust mites are breathed as the air is re-circulated. Fan heaters and convectors also move the air and dust around.

Gas heating and cooking. Houses that have gas fires and gas cookers have higher levels of nitrogen dioxide. In some people with asthma nitrogen dioxide may cause other triggers to have slightly more effect on their symptoms. There is no evidence to show whether gas central heating increases asthma symptoms.

Wood and coal fires

Wood and coal fires without adequate flues can cause mild worsening of breathing problems, compared with central heating.

Cleaning, decorating, building work and repairs

In everyday life, and especially while redecorating, a wide assortment of domestic products and solvents are used around the home, many of which release chemicals that can cause breathing difficulties in some people with asthma. These chemicals are known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Many household and DIY products such as cleaning fluids, varnishes, glues and paints contain VOCs.

Furniture polish, air fresheners, carpet cleaners and dry-cleaned clothes can all trigger asthma because they contain VOCs.
Use solid or liquid alternatives rather than sprays where possible. Use as little of the product as possible and open windows.
Decorating: To date, there has been little medical research on the many chemicals used in renovating or decorating a home.
Wet paint can cause problems as it gives off chemicals that can trigger asthma symptoms in some people. There is no one type of paint that can be guaranteed as safe for everyone with asthma.
New low-odour, water-based gloss paints are now available that may be slightly better for some people with asthma.
These paints are available at most large DIY outlets and manufacturers’ details can be obtained by contacting the Paintmakers Association.
Stripping wallpaper can unsettle dust so wash down wallpaper before starting as this may help to dampen down the dust. Ensure there is plenty of ventilation while working.
Some people prefer to wear a mask during decorating and even during everyday cleaning, but no special masks have been shown in trials to reduce symptoms.

Building work and repairs

There is a link between poor housing conditions and asthma. It is important to ensure that housing problems such as damp, poor ventilation and inadequate heating are resolved as quickly as possible.

Major renovation or structural repair can cause a lot of dust and other irritant triggers.

Problems can also arise when treating a house for woodworm, damp and dry rot.

You can also ask your local council’s environmental health department for advice.

Some insulation materials contain formalin and formaldehyde. It is important that the skin containing the insulation is not cracked, as this can leak fumes into the house. If you are having cavity wall insulation installed check with the builder or contractor exactly what they intend to use. Micafil is free of these chemicals.

If you are contemplating any building work within your home it is worth seeing your doctor or nurse to check if a temporary increase in medicine is needed.