Can asthma symptoms get worse indoors?

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Asthma triggers

Asthma is a lung condition where inflammation of the airways causes breathing difficulties. Common triggers of asthma include pollen, smoke, dust, pet dander, mould, toxic cleaning products, and extreme weather conditions. Asthmatics should identify their triggers and plan strategies to avoid them.

Can household products trigger asthma?

Various household items such as cleaning products and paints are known to contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which increase the risk of developing and worsening asthma. Research indicates that the concentration of many VOCs is ten times higher indoors than outdoors.

Common indoor asthma triggers

Several items used in the household contain substances that can exacerbate asthma-related symptoms and reduce lung function. Let us take a look at some of the common indoor asthma triggers in detail.

#1 - Paint

Scientists from the University of Miami found that exposure to fresh paint can increase the risk of asthma exacerbation. The study presented at the annual meeting of the American Thoracic Society revealed that if an asthmatic child is exposed to fresh paint, their risk of having an asthma attack increases by 8-fold.

#2 - Cleaning agents

Many cleaning products contain both irritants and sensitizers (allergic chemicals) which can trigger the onset or exacerbation of asthma. Sodium hypochlorite (bleach), hydrochloric acid, ammonia, and sodium hydroxide are some of the airway irritants found in cleaning products. Some examples of respiratory sensitizers are ammonium compounds, benzalkonium chloride, amine compounds, and fragrances.

#3 - House dust mites

The dust in our houses contains several elements including dried food particles, mould spores, insect parts, and dust mites. Dust mites are microscopic organisms that attach to fibres of carpets and mattresses. The faecal particles of the mites get disintegrated and float into the air while sweeping or vacuuming. Inhalation of these particles can initiate or exacerbate asthma symptoms.

#4 - Soap and shampoos

Almost all the soaps and shampoos contain fragrance, which is a complex mixture of natural and synthetic chemical ingredients. Research reveals that fragrances or odours can aggravate or trigger asthma symptoms. Some asthmatic patients have also reported other reactions such as headache, nausea and dizziness due to the fragrance.

#5 - Pets

Furry pets such as cats, dogs, rodents and birds shed microscopic flecks of skin called dander. Pet dander can trigger an attack in asthmatic patients. Moreover, the body fluids of pets such as saliva, urine, and sweat can carry allergens that can trigger the symptoms of asthma.

#6 - Smoke

Tobacco smoke can worsen the symptoms of asthma and also put other people at risk of developing the condition. Studies reveal exposure to second-hand smoke can trigger an asthma attack. Long-term exposure to household air pollution, which includes gas cooking and heating, has been associated with declining lung function and asthma.

How to control indoor allergens?

Air cleaners with HEPA filters can be used to keep the indoor allergens at bay. Vacuum carpets, rugs, and floors at least twice a week to prevent dust mite allergy. Keep pets out of the bedrooms and avoid bathing products or air fresheners with fragrance. Improve ventilation of the rooms by using exhaust fans and keeping the windows open.

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