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Make Your Home Safe from Asthma Triggers
Imagine, for a moment, that a thunderstorm is rolling across the sky above your home. Yesterday the birds were chirping, the flowers were blooming on the ground and in the fruit trees, and the humidity level was rising (hence the storm today). And pollen. Pollen is everywhere. There was a dull, yellow haze on your car parked outside until this storm washed it off. But pollen is still floating in the air. You can see lightning in the distance and hear the rumble of thunder getting closer.
If you have asthma, this can be a frightening time of year. Many of the things that cause an asthma attack are prevalent during Spring. Here are just a small handful: Allergens such as pollen, mold, and pet dander. Air pollution, including smog, smoke, volatile organic compounds from cleaning products, and fumes from cooking. Exercise, which we do a lot more outside when it’s nice out. Weather. Yes, weather. The temperature varies widely in Spring, and sudden changes in temperature and weather can bring on an asthma episode. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, “thunderstorm asthma can affect people with asthma if a thunderstorm hits during high pollen and high humidity.” While some of these triggers are found outdoors, many are indoors too.
Here are some of the triggers of asthma episodes and what you can do to mitigate them in your home:
Allergens. Common allergens that cause allergic asthma are dust mites, pollen, molds, and animal allergens such as pet dander. To keep these allergens to a minimum, ensure you are ventilating your home. Run your bathroom exhaust fan during and for twenty minutes after you shower to remove the moisture that mold loves from your bathroom. That same fan can also help move air filled with pollen and dust out of your house, though they are not designed to clear a whole home independently.
Pair exhaust fans with a fresh air system, such as a supply fan or an Energy Recovery Ventilator, to bring fresh, filtered air into your home. An Energy Recovery Ventilator, like our AI Series, can accommodate a HEPA filter which will remove 99.97% of the pollutants in the air before it enters your home. An ERV will also remove stale, polluted air from the whole home, not just a single room.
Irritants in the air. These irritants include smoke, strong fumes, and volatile organic compounds like those found in household cleaners or created by burning fuels such as natural gas, dust, and chemicals.
One of the most polluted rooms in the house is the kitchen. We spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking, cleaning, eating, playing with the dog, and more. Each creates pollutants that need to be vented out of the home. When cooking steam, volatile organic compounds, grease droplets, and smoke are all created and released into the air. If you have a gas stove, you also have combustion fumes like carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. Nitrogen dioxide has been shown to exacerbate asthma in children and the elderly.
Cleaning products contain volatile organic compounds and chemicals that can trigger an asthma episode. When cleaning the kitchen, turn on your range hood a few minutes before you start and run for twenty to thirty minutes after you finish. If you have a fresh air system, put it into its turbo or boost mode to flush the pollutants out and introduce fresh, filtered air to dilute residual VOCs or chemicals.
Weather. While it’s nice to open a window to bring in fresh air after a long winter, opening the window introduces a lot of pollution into the home. Pollen, dust, and mold can all easily enter the house, causing an asthma episode. Consider installing a fresh air system or supply fan if fresh air is your goal. These units bring in fresh air through a MERV or HEPA filter, which captures most of the particles entering your home.
Areas of the country with high humidity should consider installing a whole-home dehumidifier. These units tie into your existing ductwork or can be ducted independently. Their sole purpose is to dehumidify the air in your home. A dehumidifier can help keep mold and mildew from forming.
May is Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, so take a moment to look around your house for ways to limit exposure to asthma and allergy triggers. Doing so will not only help those with asthma stay healthy, but it will improve the quality of your air and, ultimately, the quality of your life.