Indoor Asthma Triggers
Indoor Triggers
Some of the strongest environmental asthma triggers are found indoors, especially in the
home. Here is a list of indoor asthma trigger sources and tips for controlling them:
 Tobacco smoke: Do not allow smoking in the house or in the car.
 Dust mites: Special mite-proof pillow and mattress covers and frequent washing of
bedding in hot water can prevent accumulation of dust mites.
 Cockroaches: Deny roaches food, water, hiding places and entry. Don't use pesticide
sprays, fogs or bombs - they are not effective and can expose you to dangerous
pesticides. Gel baits, bait stations and boric acid are effective and, if used properly,
minimize pesticide exposure.
 Mold: Throw out things that are moldy or have been soaked for more than a couple of
days. Get information on cleaning mold safely. The key to reducing mold is reducing
excessive moisture.
 Rodents: Use snap traps, not poisons.
 Combustion Products: Home appliances that burn fuel produce irritant gases and fine
particles that, if not properly vented, can trigger asthma attacks. Have the furnace,
water heater, flues and chimney inspected each year, don't use unvented (non-electric)
space heaters, and do use exhaust fans vented to the outside.
 Household Products: Avoid pesticides, solvents, building materials and cleaning products
with strong odors.
Since excessive moisture helps mold, mites and roaches flourish, take steps to reduce moisture.
Triggers accumulate in dust and dirt on surfaces, so keep dust levels down, using wet cleaning
and vacuuming (with an allergen-proof or double bag). Too much to do? Start with the
bedroom and make it as free as possible from triggers.
To see a complete list of ways to control indoor asthma triggers: Indoor Asthma
Trigger factsheet
To see a presentation about Indoor Asthma Triggers (1/21/10 Youngstown, Ohio): presentation
- PDF and presentation - slides (ppt)
To read a report about how indoor pollutants contribute to asthma: The Institute of Medicine
online report Clearing the Air: Asthma and Indoor Air Exposures
Moisture and Asthma
A number of asthma triggers are associated with excess
moisture, including house dust mites, mold and cockroaches.
Read Jim LaRue’s Home Moisture Audit, a step-bystep guide for diagnosing moisture problems in the home.
Moisture Resources
Damp Indoor Spaces and Health (2004), by the
Institute of Medicine, examines the relationship between damp or moldy indoor
environments and adverse health outcomes, discusses how and where buildings get
wet, how dampness influences microbial growth and chemical emissions, the ways to
prevent and remediate dampness, and the elements of a public health response to the
SOEH Report: "Mold-Related Health Effects: Clinical, Remediation Worker Protection,
and Biomedical Research Issue
The New England Asthma Regional Council has a useful document entitled Healthy and
Affordable Housing: Practical Recommendations for Building, Renovating, and
Maintaining Housing to help homeowners reduce the impact of home pollutants such as
moisture on persons with asthma.
Pests and Asthma
Roaches and Rodents - Potent Asthma Triggers
Multiple factors contribute to the severity of asthma. Allergens associated with cockroaches
and rodents are potent and pervasive asthma triggers. They are especially prevalent in
substandard housing. For example, in the National Cooperative Inner-City Asthma Study 37% of
the children were allergic to cockroach allergen. High levels of cockroach allergen was found in
the dust of 50% of the children's bedrooms. Sensitivity and exposure were significantly
associated with increased likelihood of asthma symptoms.
IPM - Safer and More Effective Pest Control
The old methods of pest control - still too commonly used - rely on monthly spraying of volatile
and toxic insecticides for roaches and use of strong poisons for rodents. These methods are
costly, ineffective in the long run, and potentially dangerous. Even when done properly,
spraying can leave persistent pesticide residue. Irritant chemicals in some insecticide sprays can
actually trigger asthma attacks (see Asthma, Children and Pesticides: What you need to know,
Beyond Pesticides - National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides). Poisons used for
rodents are one of the most common sources of poisoning of young children.
The state-of-the-art in the pest control industry is Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which is
safer, more effective, and cheaper in the long run than the old methods. IPM utilizes pest
monitoring, environmental controls, mechanical capture, and targeted applications of small
amounts of low-volatility, least-toxic pesticides.
Getting Rid of Roaches
 Cockroach Control Guide -web
 Cockroach Control Guide (PDF)- English- Black and
White or Color; Spanish- Black and White orColor
 Get Rid of Roaches- Breather Easier (PDF)- EnglishBlack and White or Color; Spanish- Black and
White or Color
 Roach Baits Work! - EHW's graphic guide
IPM in Multi-Family Buildings
EHW Model IPM Contractor Program (pdf, 6 pgs)
EHW Roach Control in Public Housing (pdf, 4 pg)
Integrated Pest Management in Affordable Housing, National Center for Healthy
A Practical Guide to Cockroach Control in Multi-family Housing Units, Purdue University
Other Pest Control Links

Indoor Asthma Triggers - Environmental Health Watch