The Basics: Overview
If someone in your family has allergies or asthma, make your home a healthier place by getting rid of the things that can cause allergy symptoms or an asthma attack.
What can cause allergy symptoms or an asthma attack?
Things that can cause allergy symptoms are called allergens. Asthma attacks can be caused by irritants (things that can irritate the lungs) or allergens. Different people will react to different allergens and irritants.
Common causes of allergy symptoms and asthma attacks at home include:
- Mold or dampness
- Dust mites (tiny bugs that live in beds and carpets)
- Pets with fur, including cats and dogs
- Cockroaches (roaches and their droppings may cause asthma)
- Mice, rats, and other rodents
- Secondhand smoke
- Wood smoke
- Strong fragrances
Learn more about allergens and irritants.
Take Action: Identify Triggers
Follow these steps to make your home a healthier place for people with allergies or asthma.
Find out what causes your allergy symptoms or asthma attacks.
If you or someone in your family has asthma, it’s important to figure out what can trigger (cause) an asthma attack. Asthma triggers can be different for different people. Learn more about asthma triggers.
Ask your doctor about getting an allergy test. This test can help you know what exactly is causing your allergies. Learn more about allergy tests.
When you know what you are allergic to – or what your asthma triggers are – you can take steps to get rid of or avoid those things in your home.
Take Action: Clean the Bedroom
Keep allergens and irritants out of the bedroom.
- Cover your mattresses and pillows in “dust proof” (or “allergen proof”) covers.
- Wash all your bedding in very hot water (at least 130 °F) once a week. Go to a laundromat if the water in your home doesn’t get that hot.
- Keep stuffed animals off the bed.
- If you have pets that you are allergic to (like cats or dogs), keep them out of the bedroom.
- If possible, remove all carpets. It’s easier to keep bare floors clean.
Take Action: Prevent Mold
Control moisture to prevent mold.
Keep your home dry to prevent mold. Mold can start to grow in wet or damp places within just 1 or 2 days.
- If you have a water leak, clean up the water right away. Fix the leak as soon as possible.
- When you take a shower, run the bathroom fan or open the window for at least 20 minutes afterward.
- Check the humidity level in your home with a moisture or humidity meter (available at a hardware store).
- Use a de-humidifier or air conditioner to keep the humidity level in your home below 60 percent. A humidity level between 30 and 50 percent is best.
If you rent your home and there’s mold in it, you may be able to ask your landlord or property manager to clean up the mold. Check with your local county or state health department to learn more about your rights.
Get more tips on preventing and cleaning up mold.
What if the air in my home is too dry?
While moist (wet) air can lead to mold, dry air can be uncomfortable.
If the air in your home is dry in the winter, you can use a humidifier. Just be sure to still keep the humidity level between 30 and 50 percent.
Take Action: Prevent Pests
Keep pests out of your home.
Rodents (mice and rats) and cockroaches can trigger allergy or asthma attacks if you are allergic to them. Take these steps to help prevent pests:
- Fix leaks in sinks and toilets.
- Put trays under your plants, radiators, and refrigerator. Check the trays for water and clean them often.
- Store food (including pet food) in closed containers.
- Clean up crumbs and spills right away.
- Fill in cracks or holes that could be good indoor hiding places for pests.
- Put screens in your windows and doors.
- If you see roaches or rodents, call a pest control company.
Take Action: Avoid Smoke
Make a no-smoking rule in your home.
Cigarette smoke, including secondhand smoke, can make asthma worse. And babies who live in homes where people smoke are at higher risk of developing asthma.
If you have guests who smoke, ask them to smoke outside. If you smoke, make a plan to quit today.
Avoid burning wood inside your home.
Breathing too much smoke from a wood-burning stove or fireplace can cause an asthma attack. If you can avoid it, don’t burn wood in your home.
If you need to use a wood stove or fireplace, check out these tips on how to reduce the smoke.