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Indoor Environmental Asthma Triggers adapted from the EPA\'s Asthma Triggers page:

  • Molds
  • Pests and Cockroaches
  • Secondhand Smoke
  • Dust Mites
  • Pets
  • Nitrogen Dioxide

Americans spend up to 90% of their time indoors. Therefore, indoor allergens and irritants can play a significant role in triggering asthma attacks. It is important to recognize potential asthma triggers in the indoor environment and reduce your exposure to those triggers. You may not be affected by all of the triggers listed here. Your doctor can help you to determine which triggers affect your asthma and develop a customized asthma management plan.

Some of the most common indoor asthma triggers include mold, pests, secondhand smoke, dust mites, cockroaches and other pests, household pets, and combustion byproducts.

Mold can grow indoors when mold spores land on wet or damp surfaces. In the home, mold is most commonly found in the bathroom, kitchen and basement.

What are Molds?

Molds are microscopic fungi that live on plant and animal matter. Molds can be found almost anywhere; they grow on virtually any substance when moisture is present. Molds produce tiny spores to reproduce, just as plants produce seeds. Mold spores waft through the indoor and outdoor air continually. When mold spores land on a damp spot indoors, they may begin growing and digesting whatever they are growing on in order to survive. Some molds can grow on wood, paper, carpet, foods and even dynamite.

There is no practical way to eliminate all molds indoors; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture. If you think you have a mold problem and can see mold growth, you do not need environmental testing to determine what kind of mold you have. Instead, simply clean the mold from the surface it\'s growing on and dry the surface thoroughly.

How Does Mold Affect Asthma? For people sensitive to molds, inhaling mold spores can cause an asthma attack.

Actions You Can Take: If mold is a problem in your home, you need to clean up the mold and eliminate sources of moisture.

* Fix leaky plumbing or other sources of water.
* Wash mold off hard surfaces and dry completely. Absorbent materials, such as ceiling tiles and carpet, may have to be replaced if they are contaminated with mold.
* Keep drip pans in your air conditioner, refrigerator and dehumidifier clean and dry.
* Use exhaust fans or open windows in kitchens and bathrooms when showering, cooking or using the dishwasher.
* Vent clothes dryers to the outside.

Maintain low indoor humidity, ideally between 30-50% relative humidity. Humidity levels can be measured by hygrometers, which are available at local hardware stores.

Links to EPA Publications/Resources


Pests and Cockroaches -- Cockroach body parts, secretions and droppings, and the urine, droppings and saliva of pests, such as rodents, are often found in areas where food and water are present.

portions from

About Cockroaches, Other Pests and Asthma -- Droppings or body parts of cockroaches and other pests can trigger asthma. Certain proteins, called allergens, are found in cockroach feces and saliva and can cause allergic reactions, or trigger asthma symptoms, in some individuals. Cockroaches are commonly found in crowded cities and the southern regions of the United States. Cockroach allergens likely play a significant role in asthma in many inner-city areas.

Actions You Can Take -- An important key to pest management is to remove places in your home for pests to hide and to keep exposed areas free of food and water. But remember, pesticides you may spray to prevent pests are not only toxic to pests, they can harm people too. Try to use pest management methods that pose less of a risk. Tips to prevent pests:

* Fix plumbing leaks and other moisture problems.
* Seal cracks or openings...
* Remove piles of boxes, newspapers and other hiding places for pests from your home.

Secondhand Smoke is a mixture of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette, pipe or cigar and the smoke exhaled by the smoker that is often found in homes and cars where smoking is allowed.

Dust Mites are too small to be seen, but can be found in almost every home in mattresses and bedding materials, carpets, upholstered furniture, stuffed toys and curtains.

Warm-Blooded Pets (such as cats and dogs) -- Pets\' skin flakes, urine and saliva can be found in homes where pets are allowed inside.

Nitrogen Dioxide is an odorless gas that can be a byproduct of indoor fuel-burning appliances, such as gas stoves, gas or oil furnaces, fireplaces, wood stoves and unvented kerosene or gas space heaters.


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