Asthma and your Household

Various factors inside your home can be important triggers or causes for the symptoms of asthma and asthma attacks.

House-Dust Mites

Many people with asthma are sensitive to the droppings of house-dust mites. These are tiny insects that live in the dust that builds up around the house in carpets, bedding, soft furnishings and soft toys.

If you suspect or know that house-dust mites trigger your asthma, then you may be able to reduce some symptoms by following all the recommendations below:

  • Use complete barrier covering systems on your mattress, duvet and pillows.
  • Remove all carpets and replace with hard flooring.
  • Vacuum all areas frequently. Use a vacuum cleaner that has good suction and a filtered exhaust that does not scatter dust. Damp dust all surfaces or use an attachment on your vacuum cleaner.
  • Remove all soft toys from beds. Put them in a bag in the freezer for a minimum of six hours every one to two weeks to kill house-dust mites.
  • Hot wash (at 60 degrees C) sheets, duvet covers and pillowcases once a week. Although some people are allergic to feathers there is no conclusive evidence to show that synthetic hypo-allergenic pillows are any better.
  • Clean your soft furnishings with anti-house-dustmite chemicals (although these can sometimes cause symptoms to get worse).
  • Use a dehumidifier to dry the air, as this makes it more difficult for the house-dust mites to survive.
  • Ask someone else to vacuum while you stay out of the room.

Carpets and Furnishings

Furniture, flooring and shelving made from chipboard or MDF may trigger asthma symptoms in some people. This is because it contains formaldehyde resin, which gives off a pungent, colourless gas that can irritates the airways.

Carpets can also be a source of formaldehyde gas left over from the manufacturing process. If you are buying a new carpet you should ask the shop if they could unroll and air it before you bring it home.

People who are allergic to latex should avoid carpet with a foam underlay.

Some people report that their asthma is triggered by the smell of new sofas and soft furnishings. Try airing new furniture before bringing it into the house and keep the windows open for a few days.

Those allergic to pets may continue to have symptoms for many months after a dog or cat last lived in the house. This is because pet allergens can linger for a long time on furniture and in carpets and are very difficult to remove without resorting to a rigorous cleaning measure, such as steam cleaning. When moving house it is wise to check whether the previous homeowners had pets.