Dr Andy Whittamore
Clinical Lead at Asthma UK
When people think about air pollution it probably brings to mind smoggy, over-populated cities full of traffic fumes, but indoor air pollution can also be harmful, particularly for people with asthma.
When you have asthma, all kinds of things lurking in your home can cause indoor pollution and trigger an asthma attack. Many cleaning and DIY products as well as new furniture and carpets contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which trigger asthma symptoms. Scented products such as candles or air fresheners, and the smoke from wood-burning stoves are also culprits.
Protect yourself from asthma triggers – use your inhalers
It’s impossible for people with asthma to get rid of all the triggers in their homes, so the best way to stay well is to regularly take your preventer inhaler (normally brown). This builds up protection in your airways over time, so that, if you come into contact with asthma triggers, they are less likely to cause an asthma attack.
Everyone with asthma should also make sure they keep their blue reliever inhaler with them at all times for on-the-spot relief. If you are regularly getting symptoms, you should see your GP for a review of your asthma.
Keep your home safe from indoor pollution
There are some things you can do to minimise indoor pollution in your home, such as making sure that, if you have a wood or coal fire, any flues are in good condition and working well so the smoke can escape. You should also ensure your chimney is swept regularly.
If you know that scented products trigger your symptoms, you should consider using unscented ones. If cleaning products are an issue, you can avoid breathing them in by using solid or liquid cleaning products instead of sprays.
We’d suggest that when people are decorating that they use paints low in VOCs, and if you are getting new carpets, you should ask the shop to roll them out before they are delivered. When people are cleaning, decorating or getting new furniture or carpets, it’s important that the area is well-ventilated.
Follow your written asthma plan from your GP
If you are worried about indoor pollution triggering your asthma, you should speak to your GP. Stay well by making sure you attend your yearly asthma review and follow your written asthma action plan. For more information on staying safe with asthma visit asthma.org.uk.