Asthma Mom’s 10 Rules to De-Trigger Your House

When my daughter coughed and flared all day and night before we achieved that elusive asthma control, walking into my house felt a lot like stepping into the scene of a horror movie.

No place felt safe, and while that can be a feature of asthma in general, considering its somewhat unpredictable nature and the way triggers lurk everywhere, that fear also reflected my deep anxiety about my kid’s breathing (or lack thereof).

Clearly, my reaction was a little extreme. At the same time, asthma parents should regard their homes as potential trigger minefields because adjusting a few habits and indoor elements – in conjunction, always in conjunction with a comprehensive treatment plan – can go a long way towards easing the number and severity of flares.

Some of these suggestions are cheaper and more doable than the others and even following all of them won’t eliminate asthma flares completely, but they can help.

1. Completely encase your child’s pillow and mattress in allergen-free covers.
If you’re dealing with a dust mite allergy like I do, avoiding down blankets is a good idea, too.

2. Limit stuffed animals, and treat the ones you do keep for dust mites.
While my kid used to sleep with a stuffed horse, I’d tell her to keep it away from her face on the theory that she couldn’t breathe the dust mites in as easily if she didn’t hold it right next to her nose, as she was prone to do. I have no idea if that actually helped her, but it made me feel better. Use this dust mite elimination process for any teddy bears that stick around in your house.

3. Switch to DIY cleaning solutions instead of synthetic ones.
Did you know you can clean just about anything with vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice? They’re cheap; they don’t harm the environment; and they don’t contain the chemicals that often act as triggers. Sometimes I use green cleaning products, too, like Seventh Generation’s, but mostly I make my own.

4. Avoid synthetic fragrances, too.
I write about this tip a lot, and it’s a hard one to follow but not impossible.

5. Seek and destroy mold.
Inspect places like bathrooms and laundry areas that are prone to mold, and then check the not so obvious ones. When I moved from humid Florida here to Colorado, I discovered mold all over the bottom of my kid’s box spring, for example. Eliminate any sources of lingering damp.

6. Get smart about fireplaces.
I can’t tell you not to burn wood because of this pile, stacked in my yard as I type:

I can, however, tell you to use fireplaces around asthma kids wisely.

7. Consider the flooring.
If you own your home and you plan to stay there long enough to reap your equity and you have a little disposable cash on hand, replacing carpet with hard flooring isn’t the worst idea in the world. Carpet padding retains mold, pollen, and other triggers underneath the carpet, where you can’t clean, so even just switching out the flooring in your kid’s room only can limit nighttime asthma attacks.

8. Uncover any other sources of indoor volatile organic compounds.
Here’s why and how.

9. Research HEPA vacuum cleaners.
These filter out smaller particles than a traditional vacuum, and we all know it’s the smaller particles that find their way down the airways and into the lungs.

10. Change your furnace and/or AC filters frequently.
This one’s a no-brainer, I know, but hey, it’s the little things.