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8 Ways to Asthma-Proof the Home

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As my fiancé and I embark on the exciting adventure of building our own home, I have been thinking about the steps my parents took to asthma-proof the house I grew up in. Now that we’re all spending a lot more time at home, it might be just the opportunity to get down to some spring cleaning and check how asthma proof your home is!

It’s no surprise that our homes are often filled with asthma triggers. According to The Asthma Society of Ireland, dust, animal dander, mould, air quality, and furnishings are just some of the items that can trigger asthma symptoms at home.

My siblings and I experienced asthma as children, so our parents worked hard to manage the possible triggers in our family home. I often found myself suffering from asthma symptoms when I stayed away from home, which is a good sign that the measures my parents took to asthma-proof our home were effective.

Tips for a trigger-free home

To prepare myself for moving in, I spoke to my mother about the changes she felt were necessary in our home.

Eliminate dust and dust mites

Dust mites are tiny creatures that feed off the dead skin cells we shed. As you can imagine, dust mites are especially attracted to our bed sheets. This year, we invested in anti-allergy bed sheets to try and combat dust and dust mites from accumulating in our beds. We also wash our bed clothes weekly and ensure that our rooms are well ventilated and vacuumed regularly. Asthma.ie recommends that sheets, duvets and pillow cases should be washed weekly, at 60 degrees Celsius.

Swap carpets for wooden floors

As young children, we had carpets in our bedrooms and the living rooms. My parents gradually removed the carpets from the house and replaced them with wooden floors. In comparison to the carpets, we found the wooden flooring much easier to keep clean and the dust didn’t accumulate as much as it had before. This is certainly something I will be taking into consideration as we choose the furnishings for our new home.

Buy a high-quality vacuum

Investing in a high-quality vacuum cleaner is also something I will do when our house is built. Dusting and vacuuming were chores I happily avoided as a child. In fact, my mother never wanted me to do these chores as she knew they could expose me to too much dust and could trigger my asthma symptoms. I have since invested in a face mask with an air filter that I wear when carrying out those dusty jobs!

Try an air purifier

I have recently placed an air purifier in my bedroom. Over the summer when pollen levels were high, I used the air purifier to freshen the air in my bedroom. I also use the air purifier in winter to help reduce dust levels and other pollutants in the air. I have found this to be a very useful resource in reducing my asthma symptoms, particularly at night.

Declutter

As we are building our new home, I am living in my parent’s house. At 27, I have accumulated many belongings including clothes, memory boxes, college notes, and resources for work. I have outgrown my bedroom and my possessions have slowly filtered out of my bedroom and into the attic space and my sister’s old wardrobe!

The benefit of this has been that, due to the lack of space, I have had to carry out many clear outs over the years. The build-up of clutter and unnecessary items in my bedroom made it more difficult to clean, and dust built up quickly in the areas where my belongings were stored. As a result, I try hard to keep clutter to a minimum so that I can reduce dust gathering in my bedroom. I hope to continue this habit in my new home.

Avoid strong chemicals and fumes

In the Asthma Society of Ireland’s Asthma Friendly Homes Leaflet, it states that bleach, polishes and air fresheners can all cause asthma symptoms and can lead to asthma attacks.

Our home has an array of cleaning products, from disinfectant to furniture polish. Not only do these products have a strong smell, but they also often come in spray or aerosol bottles that are easily inhaled when they are sprayed too close to the face. Aerosol sprays including deodorant often catch my breath when they are sprayed. I try to avoid inhaling these fumes by covering my mouth or leaving the room and getting some fresh air.

The Asthma Friendly Homes Leaflet also suggests some asthma-friendly cleaning alternatives. Rather than using sprays or aerosols, the leaflet recommends using liquid or solid cleaners. These type of cleaning agents can be applied directly to the surface, so helps to avoid any potential inhalation of fumes often caused by sprays and aerosols. The leaflet also suggests using natural cleaning products like warm water, vinegar, lemon, and baking soda, as well as to look out for ‘allergy-friendly’ labels on cleaning products. It is also important to keep areas well ventilated, especially while cleaning.

Steer clear of smoke and open fires

Fortunately, none of my family members are smokers so I didn’t experience the trigger of cigarette smoke in my home. We did, however, have two open fires. There are so many triggers associated with the fire for me. The smoke that rises from the fire, the soot on the grate, and the cleaning of the fire are all triggers that I need to be very conscious of.

I use my face mask when lighting the fire or doing any sort of cleaning that involves soot. This acts as a barrier and allows me to enjoy the fire without triggering my asthma symptoms. A couple of years ago, my parents invested in a wood burning stove with a door. This was a fantastic addition to our home and certainly lowered the risk of smoke entering the living spaces.

As we are embarking on a new build, it is required that our house is well insulated. As a result, we won’t need an open fire or a wood burning stove which will reduce the risk of dust, soot, and smoke.

Be aware of animal triggers

Growing up, we didn’t have any family pets in our home. I don’t have much experience of animal dander for this reason. However my fiancé loves animals -  particularly dogs - so it is highly likely we will have a dog when the time comes.

It’s a common misconception that it’s just animal hair and fur that trigger asthma symptoms. According to Asthma.org.uk, we must also be conscious of animal dander, saliva, animal food, and their belongings. If pets are a trigger for you, the website has some excellent tips for someone who hasn’t experienced living with a pet, and how to efficiently lower the risk of pet allergies in our homes.

The takeaway

Living with asthma is always a learning curve. The more tips I can pick up along the way, the better I will be able to manage and reduce my asthma symptoms.

I have learned a lot from my parents and how they managed our home. I am looking forward to the adventure of building my own home, and researching new ideas and methods of asthma-proofing it for the future.  

UK/MED/20/0100 April 2020