Indoor Air Asthma Triggers

Read more on the types of environmental health issues that can trigger an asthma attack.
Tobacco Smoke (Secondhand Smoke)

Environmental tobacco smoke or secondhand smoke is the smoke created by a smoker, which is inhaled by a second person nearby. Parents, friends, and relatives of adults and children with asthma should try to stop smoking and should never smoke around a person with asthma. Smokers should only do so outdoors and not in the family home or car or anywhere else where the carcinogens from cigarettes could attach to surfaces asthmatics could be exposed to (surface relay of these carcinogens is known as third-hand smoke). Smokers should not allow others to smoke in the home and they should ensure their child’s school is a smoke-free campus.

More on Secondhand Smoke:  http://www.epa.gov/asthma/shs.html


Dust Mites

Dust mites are tiny bugs that are too small to see. Every home has dust mites, but they don’t necessarily cause everybody to have asthma attacks. To help prevent asthma attacks, use mattress covers and pillowcase covers to make a barrier between dust mites and yourself. Don’t use down-filled pillows, quilts or comforters. Stuffed animals and clutter from your bedroom and living areas.  Cleaning surfaces and carpets and regularly washing linen in your home can go a long way in preventing asthma attacks triggered by dust mites; however, if regular cleaning isn’t enough, use of a quality HEPA or hyperHEPA air purifier can improve the air quality inside the home.

More on Dust Mites:  http://www.epa.gov/asthma/dustmites.html

Cockroaches and Pests

Cockroaches and their droppings may trigger an asthma attack. Get rid of cockroaches in your home and keep them from coming back by taking away their food and water. Cockroaches are usually found where food is eaten and crumbs are left behind. Remove as many water and food sources as you can because cockroaches need food and water to survive. At least every 2 to 3 days, vacuum or sweep areas that might attract cockroaches. You can also use roach traps or gels to decrease the number of cockroaches in your home.

More on Cockroaches and Pests http://www.epa.gov/asthma/pests.html


Furry pets may trigger an asthma attack. When a furry pet is suspected of causing asthma attacks, the simplest solution is to find the pet another home. If pet owners are too attached to their pets or are unable to locate a safe, new home for the pet, they should keep the pet out of the bedroom of the person with asthma.

Pets should be bathed weekly and kept outside as much as possible. People with asthma are not allergic to their pet’s fur, so trimming your pet’s fur will not help your asthma. If you have a furry pet, vacuum often to clean up anything that could cause an asthma attack. If your floors have a hard surface, such as wood or tile, and are not carpeted, damp mop them every week.

More on Pets http://www.epa.gov/asthma/pets.html


Inhaling or breathing in mold can cause an asthma attack. Get rid of mold in all parts of your home to help control your asthma attacks. Keep the humidity level in your home between 35 percent and 50 percent. In hot, humid climates, you may need to use an air conditioner or a dehumidifier or both. Fix water leaks, which allow mold to grow behind walls and under floors.

More on Mold http://www.epa.gov/asthma/molds.html


Wood Smoke

Smoke from burning wood is made up of a mix of harmful gases and small particles. Breathing in too much of this smoke can cause an asthma attack. Wood smoke indoors or outdoors can be problematic and trigger an asthma attack.

More on Wood Smoke http://www.epa.gov/asthma/woodsmoke.html

Outdoor Air Pollution

Pollution caused by industrial emissions and automobile exhaust can cause an asthma attack. Pay attention to air quality forecasts on radio, television, and Internet and plan your activities for when air pollution levels will be low if air pollution aggravates your asthma.

Visit our Outdoor Air page to learn more about outdoor air pollution in Indiana.  http://www.injac.org/health-care-providers/environment/outdoor-air

More on Outdoor Air Pollution: http://www.epa.gov/asthma/outdoorair.html

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To learn more about all environmental asthma triggers and more, visit www.epa.gov/asthma and www.cdc.gov/asthma.


Outdoor Air Quality

Outdoor air quality can play a major role in asthma management. When it’s too hot, too cold, and any day the air outside is thick with pollution, those with asthma are at a greater rish to experience an asthma attack.

Indiana has two programs that work to monitor air quality every day, throughout the state.

Smogwatch, a program of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), is a website with daily alerts regarding outdoor air quality throughout the various regions in Indiana.

And Knozone is an Indianapolis-specific project, alerting the vast population of the metro air to problematic air quality days, and taking the extra initiatives to broadcast air quality alerts to the public each day, through email, local news media, and on electronic highway signs throughout the metro area.

When action days or air quality alerts are issued, it’s because the Air Quality Index (AQI) has hit a certain level of risk. For those with asthma, and AQI range of 101 or higher means you are at a greater risk for an asthma attack.  On these days, it’s recommmended that you stay inside, in a well-controlled temperature environment with good ventilation.

Air Quality Index (AQI) Values

AQI Range


Color Code

0 to 50



51 to 100



101 to 150

Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups


151 to 200



201 to 300

Very Unhealthy


301 to 500



Good     0 – 50
Air quality is considered satisfactory, and air pollution poses little or no risk.

Moderate     51 – 100
Air quality is acceptable. However, there may be moderate health concerns for a very small number of people (such as those sensitive to ozone).

Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups    101 – 150
Members of sensitive groups (such as those with asthma, lung disease, or heart disease) may experience health effects. The general public is not likely to be affected when the AQI is in this range.

Unhealthy     151 – 200
At this level, nearly everyone may begin to experience the effects of air pollution. Plus, members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.

Very Unhealthy      201 – 300
At levels this high, everyone may experience serious health effects.

Hazardous     300 and up
Here, air pollution is at emergency conditions. The entire population is more likely to be affected.

. . .


The general population is asked to do several things to help the AQI on days when it reaches 101 or higher:

  • Leave early to avoid morning rush-hour
  • Carpool to work, lunch or school
  • Bring your lunch rather than drive to lunch
  • Use public transport like IndyGo whenever possible
  • Use a programmable thermostat
  • Avoid vehicle idling, such as restaurant or bank drive-thrus
  • Don’t burn trash or leaves
  • Turn your lights off when not in use
  • Instead of a Sunday drive, go for a walk or bike ride
  • Bike to work, the store or the bus stop
  • Refuel your vehicle and mow after 6 p.m.
  • Reducing the use of chemicals or pain that contain volatile organic compounds
By taking these steps, we can help improve air quality for everyone and reduce the frequency of asthma attacks on these days. Visit http://www.in.gov/apps/idem/smog/ and http://www.indy.gov/eGov/City/DPW/SustainIndy/knozone to learn more or sign up for alerts.

Integrated Pest Management and Asthma

Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, is a method of controlling pests and other environmental triggers.  The EPA defines IPM as “an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices” that least harms the environment.  According to IDEM, there are five principles highlighted by IPM: exclusion, sanitation, monitoring, treatment, and evaluation.

IPM can be applied to both the home setting and the agricultural setting, but the program is tailored to each unique area.  No two homes, farms, or other area require the same pest management techniques.  In general, though, the guidelines outlined on IDEM’s page highlight the goals of integrated pest management.

Visit IDEM’s IPM page.

The presence of pests and other environmental triggers can greatly affect a person with asthma.  According to the IPM Institute, common environmental allergens that can be controlled with IPM are cockroaches, dust mites, rodents, mold, and pets.  Furthermore, irritants like pesticides, aerosols, and smoke all lead to asthma problems.

Integrated Pest Management has been shown to reduce asthma symptoms six times more than conventional treatments, so asthma sufferers can follow IPM’s simple steps to greatly improve their quality of life.

Read IPM Institute’s article on IPM and asthma.

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