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Asthma triggers in the home


It’s a title we’d rather not have, but sadly NZ children have the highest rates of Asthma among similar OECD countries. Rates sit at 13.1% of children or almost 1 in 8 being diagnosed with the breathing condition. Boys are more likely to need an inhaler (15.4% vs 10.8%). Māori are 1.3 times more likely to be asthmatic compared to others. Researchers found socioeconomics aren’t a factor, but interestingly Whanganui has the highest rates and Auckland the lowest (1).


Because we spend so much time at home, it makes sense to make simple changes that can have great benefit to our respiratory health.

Outlined below are common triggers for Asthma in the home. A trigger is an event or situation that causes airways to react, get smaller and produce mucus.

  1. Poor indoor air quality from household item with synthetic fragrances, or VOCs e.g. gas coming off new furniture and furnishings like sofas, curtains and beds.
  2. Damp and mould.
  3. Smoke from cigarettes and wood burners.
  4. Dust, dander, and mites.

Here are our easy tips for minimising these triggers in your home

✅Get to know your VOCs (volatile organic compounds). If you have an asthmatic in your home getting your head around the ins and outs of air quality will be super important. Identify what VOCs are already in your home and immediately eliminate those that are easy to get rid of – such as fragrance plug-ins and candles and industrial chemicals used for cleaning. Then give the other VOCs (the ones not easy to remove) somewhere to go via ventilation. Airing your house regularly is the single best thing you can do after eliminating VOCs. Check out this link for a jump start on VOCs.

✅Actively control moisture to ward off damp and mould. Ventilation is not passive, but it is the key to a healthier home. Moisture builds up in our homes because be live in them – moisture comes from breathing, cleaning, cooking, showering and at times heating. Beating moisture build-up takes effort and measures to ensure you are swapping out old stale air for fresh new air. You can’t wing this one! The three steps are:
a) Don’t add extra moisture (i.e. drying washing inside, LPG heating);
b) Use extraction fans for moisture control at the source (i.e. bathroom fans, rangehood and venting dryers outside);
c) Old fashion air exchanges. Yip the simplest and cheapest is to open our windows and let the fresh air flow!

✅Smoke adds chemicals and tiny particles to the air. These are highly irritating to airways. We all realise that smoke can come from cigarettes, but other sources include incense and wood burners. Instead of incense try our room spray recipe. Burning untreated thoroughly dry wood and yearly maintenance of your fireplace flue will help with lessening smoke from fires. If you do smoke out the room, its worthwhile opening your windows and letting it escape! This link has fireplace tips.

✅Dust, dander and mites all play a role in airway irritation. Getting rid of them is easily done, but alas is an ongoing job.
a) Regular vacuuming of flooring, especially carpet will remove surface dust, but to be effective the vacuum filter must be well maintained. If possible, use a HEPA filter (high-efficiency particulate air).
b) Remove the dust (as opposed to “moving the dust”). The best way to chieve this is via wet dusting, this method will collect the particles and prevent them from becoming airborne and resettling (think feather duster). Everyday spray and a clean cloth is a great method, or if you’re doing a big dusting session, 1 tablespoon of home cleaning castile soap in half a bucket of warm water. Pay particular attention to those out-of-sight trigger spots (e.g. skirting boards at the head of the bed).
c) Cut clutter. If an item collects dust, it will also collects dust mites. Keep surfaces clear for easy dusting and opt for storage solutions that keep items behind doors or in cupboards – places where it will be difficult for dust to settle.