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Asthma Triggers Lurk Indoors in Winter
Not everyone with asthma gets a break in winter. Learn how indoor triggers work and how you can reduce them.

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Picture of man blowing his nose Asthma Triggers Lurk Indoors in Winter

People who have seasonal allergies often view winter as a time of year to catch a break. The lack of airborne pollens and grasses has many of them breathing a sigh of relief.

But for some people with asthma, the wind and cold are just backdrops to a season of misery. This is because they are sensitive to indoor allergens. Spending more time inside brings greater exposure to dust, pet dander, mold, cockroaches, and other allergens.

Asthma triggers cause airways to swell and narrow, making it hard to breathe. But you can help prevent allergy-induced asthma symptoms in the home.

What you can do

Control dust mites
Dust mites are tiny bugs that live in dust. They are mostly found in mattresses, pillows, carpet, and bedding. Their droppings are a common allergy and asthma trigger. Be sure to:

  • Cover mattresses and pillows with airtight covers.
  • Keep household humidity below 40 percent.
  • Remove carpets, rugs, and heavy curtains from bedrooms.
  • Wash bedding in hot water every 7 to 10 days; dry in a hot dryer.
  • Remove extra clutter that will collect dust.
  • Dust weekly with a damp cloth. Wear a respirator when you dust.
  • Vacuum rugs and carpets at least once a week.

Eliminate mold
Molds are microscopic fungi with spores that float in the air. Mold grows in moist places during the winter or areas that may not be routinely cleaned and disinfected:

  • Windowsills
  • Refrigerator seals
  • Air vents
  • Under kitchen sinks
  • Shower ceilings
  • Basements

To get rid of mold:

  • Scrub suspect areas with a cleaning solution of 5 percent bleach and a little detergent. Depending on the extent and type of mold, a professional may be needed.
  • Fix leaks that may leave surfaces wet and foster mold growth.
  • Upgrade air filters.
  • Vent all moisture-producing appliances to the outside.
  • Run kitchen or bath fans to vent moisture outside or open windows when cooking or showering.

Banish cockroaches
A protein in cockroach droppings triggers symptoms. Clean practices can help.

  • Vacuum or sweep the floor after meals.
  • Take garbage and recyclables out frequently.
  • Keep food in containers with tight lids.
  • Wash dishes right after use with hot, soapy water.
  • Clean under stoves, refrigerators, and toasters where loose crumbs can hide.
  • Clean stove tops, surfaces, and cupboards regularly.
  • Block areas where roaches can enter, such as
    • Crevices
    • Wall cracks
    • Floor gaps
    • Cellar and outside doors
    • Drains

Avoid pets
Having an animal in the home can make some people¿s asthma worse. You may need to find another home for your pet. But if you can't do that:

  • Keep it out of your bedroom and off furniture.
  • Have someone wash and brush it weekly.

People with increased symptoms from indoor allergens should speak to a doctor. Your doctor may adjust your asthma medications to help control symptoms and avoid complications.

By Gregg Newby, Staff Writer
Created on 11/19/2002
Updated on 10/28/2010
  • Public Health Agency of Canada. What do I need to know about asthma triggers?
  • American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Preparing your home for battle: fighting indoor allergies.
  • Environmental Health Watch. Indoor asthma triggers.
  • American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Asthma statistics.
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