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According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 1 in 4 Americans suffer from asthma and allergies. If you or a family member has asthma or allergies, there are many steps you can take to minimize or eliminate triggers in your home.
1. Improve indoor air quality.
Tobacco smoke and wood fires in your home are both triggers that also contribute to poor indoor air quality. Prohibiting people from smoking in your home and refraining from burning wood fires will effectively eliminate these triggers and subsequently improve indoor air quality. Also, limiting the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released into the air of your home will help improve indoor air quality as well. Research shows that children in homes with higher levels of VOCs are more likely to develop asthma by age 13 (1). In addition to their effects on indoor air quality, VOCs form smog which can also trigger asthma and allergy (2). Because cleaning products are a major source of indoor VOCs, switching to low-VOC or VOC-free cleaning products will help improve the air quality of your home and has the added benefit of helping to decrease smog (3, 4).
2. Use fragrance and dye free products.
Dyes and fragrances are common triggers of asthma and allergy symptoms. Therefore, fragrance free and dye free products are a good option for asthma and allergy sufferers. However, fragrances and their components can be difficult to avoid as products with 'fragrance free' claims often contain fragrance ingredients, either because of the use of fragrance ingredients as preservatives or masking agents. As such, read product labels carefully to help avoid these ingredients.
3. Clean often.
Dust, pet hair, pet dander, and mold are all major asthma and allergy triggers, but can be mitigated through frequent, rigorous cleaning.
- Routinely clean and keep areas with high humidity such as bathrooms and kitchens well ventilated to manage mold growth.
- Vacuum carpets and sweep hard floors regularly. However, vacuuming can kick up dust, dander, and pet hair, so using a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter will limit the amount of these triggers that are redistributed in the indoor air during use.
- Remove and minimize dust exposure through daily cleaning of countertops, tabletops, and other common household surfaces.
4. Avoid optical brighteners.
Many laundry products contain ingredients called optical brighteners which are chemicals that reflect light in a way that tricks the eye to make fabrics seem brighter or whiter than they are. To do this, optical brighteners are deposited on fabrics during the wash process. This can be problematic because optical brighteners can rub off on skin and react with sunlight to cause an allergic reaction which presents as a rash that is often mistaken for sunburn (5). Potential skin contact and allergic skin reactions caused by optical brighteners can be avoided by using laundry products that are optical brightener free.
1 Rumchev K, Spickett J, Bulsara M, Phillips M, Stick S. Association of domestic exposure to volatile organic compounds with asthma in young children. Thorax 2004: 59: 746-751.
2 Digiovanni F, Fellin P. Transboundary air pollution. In: Environmental Monitoringedn, H I Inyang and J L Daniels (ed)^(eds): Oxford, UK, Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS) Publishers, 2006.
3 Nazaroff W W. Indoor air chemistry and health implications. In: California Air Resources Boardedn(ed)^(eds), California Environmental Protection Agency, 2006.
4 Nazaroff W W, Coleman B K, Destaillats H, Hodgson a T, Lui D-L, Lunden M M, Singer B C, Weschler C J. Indoor Air Chemistry: Cleaning agents, ozone and toxic air contaminants. In: Final Report: Contract No 01-336edn(ed)^(eds): Berkeley, CA, University of California, Berkeley: Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, 2006.
5 Gloxhuber C, Bloching, H. . Toxicological properties of fluorescent whitening agents. Clinical Toxicology 1979: 13: 728-733.