Controlling Triggers at Home

It's impossible to be 100% trigger-free--we carry triggering agents just moving in and out of the house--but we can try! A clean and tidy home environment is an important part of asthma and allergy care. The general rule for home control for all members of the family is to:

Reduce or remove as many triggers from your home as possible.

The major triggers found in the home are: pet dander, dust mites, mold and mildew, strong odors, smoke, dust, cockroaches and other pests. Of course, outdoor agents, such as diesel fumes, are carried by air movement inside the home.


Many pets can cause allergies, especially cats. Any pet should be removed from the home if it triggers asthma and allergy symptoms. Cat allergen may stay in the home for months, even after the cat is gone, because the cat allergen is very sticky. Allergy and asthma symptoms may take some time to get better, even after removing the cat. If pets stay in the home, keep them out of the bedroom of anyone with asthma or allergies. Weekly pet baths may help cut down the amount of pet saliva and dander in the home. The child with asthma should wash his or her hands after playing with the pet.

* Goldfish or other tropical fish may be a pet good substitute.

Dust Mites

Dust mites are tiny, microscopic bugs found in house dust. Several thousand mites can be found in a pinch of dust. Mites are one of the major triggers for people with allergies and asthma. Control this problem especially in the bedroom because the bedroom is where mites are most numerous. Most dust mites are found in the bedding.

* Wash bedding every week in every hot water (135 degrees or above). Limit number of stuffed animals and make sure eery one is washed often or stored away between playings. Remove carpeting, use window blinds you can wipe down instead of curtains that collect dust and dust mites.

Mold and Mildew

When humidity is high, molds can be a problem in bathrooms and kitchens. Make sure these areas have good air circulation and are cleaned weekly. Bathrooms are a popular place for mold, so wash the tiles and grout frequently.

* Check corners behind the toilet wherever moisture is apt to collect.Change air filters every month. Dehumidify dark and damp areas. Mites cannot live in a relative humidity under 50%. Use a humidity gauge to monitor levels. Remember -- the water in the dehumidifier must be emptied and the container cleaned often to prevent forming mildew. Also check for standing water around plants.


Avoid tobacco smoke. Don't smoke or allow others to smoke, especially in your house or car. Wood smoke is a problem for children and adults with asthma and allergies. Avoid wood stoves, fireplaces and barbecues.

* Be a quitter: NYC DOHMH offers free help throughout the year. Click here.


Vacuum is better than sweeping but vacuum cleaners stir up dust and allergens in the air even if you have a filter--unless it is fitted with a HEPA filter. Anyone with asthma or allergies should avoid vacuuming and sweeping.

* If vacuuming must be done, children with asthma shold not be present. A dust mask may help.

Strong odors

Cleaning products or products with strong odors--including room fresheners, aftershave and perfume--should be avoided. Talk to your child's teacher if your child is sensitive to these "nice" smells.

* If you must use cleaning products with strong odors, do so when the child with asthma is away, then air the room well.