Asthma is incredibly common in New Zealand
There are over 521,000 people in our country taking medication for asthma. Asthma and allergies go hand in hand, and up to 80% of people with asthma also have allergic rhinitis. It’s great to know you’re not alone, but what’s even better is that there are many environmental factors you can change in your home to reduce asthma and allergy symptoms for yourself and your loved ones.
Understand the triggers
First and foremost, it’s really important to understand what triggers your asthma and allergies. This will help you manage and control symptoms and avoid or reduce those triggers in your home environment. Some common triggers for both asthma and allergies are: dust mites and their faeces, chemicals, household sprays, mould, poor air quality and animal dander (dead skin cells).
Get rid of trapped dust
Trapped dust can be found in curtains, bedding and toys, wash sheets, pillowcases and soft toys in water hotter than 55°C to kill any dust mites. Use a damp or electrostatic cloth to dust hard surfaces (including floors). Cleaning can be a problem for people with asthma and allergies, so look for household cleaning products with fewer harsh chemicals and no fragrances.
Avoiding mould growth starts with preventing moisture from getting into your home. Wherever possible, put lids on pots when cooking, use extractor fans or open windows in the kitchen and bathroom. It’s also a good idea to check for water leaks from guttering and plumbing and get them repaired. Mould can grow on almost anything when moisture is present, and indoors it can be found in damp basements, near leaky faucets or pipes, or a wet shower stall or bathtub. Be sure to check around your windows, where condensation can increase mould growth. Homes need to be insulated, ventilated and adequately heated to prevent dampness and mould growth.
Keep your home dry
Damp homes are incredibly likely to cause health problems and are also more difficult to heat. The cheapest and most effective method to ventilate your home is to have windows open a small amount over long periods of time. Ventilation systems and dehumidifiers can help achieve a better outcome.
Improve air quality
Ensure that all “inside” air you’re breathing is healthy and free of particles and pollution. For air-conditioning systems, central heat pumps and air purifiers make sure the filters are clean and effective. Ensure the filters in your home are maintained and serviced on a regular basis.
Choose the best HEPA filter
In the home, high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters can most commonly be found in vacuum cleaners and air purifiers. A HEPA filter can remove up to 99.97% of all particles greater than 0.3 micrometer’s from the air that passes through it. This is beneficial for people with asthma or allergies because the filter traps the fine particles that trigger asthma and allergy symptoms i.e. pollen and dust mite excretions. Another reason for making sure that you have a HEPA filter in the home is that the smaller particles remain airborne longer and are harder to get rid of. Look for products that have a high-grade HEPA filter.
Building materials and VOC’s
Some building materials and home furnishings give off fumes that can linger in the home. For example, formaldehyde can be found in paints, wall boards, medium-density fibreboard (MDF), adhesives and more. Paint, along with other coatings and cleaning products can be a source of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and may cause respiratory irritation too. Select products with lower levels of these chemicals, and thoroughly air the room during and after painting.
Pets in your home
Pets, especially cats and dogs, will leave allergens behind even after they have left the room, and people who have been around animals can also carry the allergens into your home. Allergens can be found in their saliva, hair, urine and dander and are carried in the air on very small particles. Vacuum any carpets, curtains and upholstery regularly with a motorised brush and a HEPA filter, clean hard floors with a damp cloth or steam mop. Wash clothing, and pet and human bedding regularly in hot water.
The Sensitive Choice® programme was created to help consumers identify asthma and allergy aware products. If you are one of the thousands of New Zealanders with asthma or allergy symptoms, visit the Sensitive Choice® website sensitivechoice.co.nz for products and services that may be a better choice for you and your family.