Air Quality and Asthma

How Air Quality Affects Asthma

Air Quality and AsthmaAsthma affects more than 20 million people in the United States and nearly 300 million people worldwide, reports the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Asthma, a chronic disease, does not have a cure. Controlling a home’s Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) can help asthma sufferers manage their disease.

Defining Asthma

Asthma is defined as a disease that inflames and narrows the airways of the lungs. It can cause typical symptoms like breathing difficulties, wheezing, tightness in the chest and chronic coughing. Often the coughing erupts at night, in the early morning, during/after physical exertion or when a person is laughing. Asthma coughs can be persistent and may worsen when something acts as a trigger for your asthma.

Triggers for asthma include stress, exercise and illnesses such as colds and flu, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). Stress and sudden weather changes can act as asthma triggers in some people. Asthma also can be triggered by various allergens such as pollen, dust mites, mold spores, animal dander, feathers, dirt, smoke, gases and odors.

Relationship between Asthma and Indoor Air

The allergens that trigger asthma affect indoor air quality for everyone living in a home, both asthma sufferers and people who aren’t asthmatic. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says the main causes of poor IAQ are indoor pollution sources. Indoor pollution can include multiple air contaminants such as:

  • Pollen
  • Dust mites
  • Mold spores
  • Pet dander
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Household cleaners
  • Pesticides

In addition to airborne contaminants, inadequate ventilation, elevated temperature and high humidity levels can contribute to poor indoor air quality, affecting asthma sufferers.

Controlling IAQ to Reduce Asthma Triggers

You can control your home’s indoor air quality. Small changes such as choosing environmentally friendly cleaning products, banning smoke from tobacco products from inside your home and keeping your home’s humidity level balanced at about 50 percent can help. When the humidity in a home drops below 30 percent, sinus issues can occur as well as dry, itchy skin and an increase in the home’s static electricity levels.

A quality air filter for your home’s HVAC unit can make a big difference in your indoor air quality. Basic flat panel air filters are inexpensive but this type of filter will not clean enough contaminants from the air to help the IAQ. To help improve IAQ to reduce the allergens that trigger asthma, choose filters listed with a MERV rating 8 or higher. The larger the number in a MERV rating, the smaller the particles (and more of them) the filter can capture and remove from your indoor circulating air.

For example, a flat panel or fiberglass filter may be rated MERV 4, which works well for basic filtration, but it only can trap particles sized at 10 microns and larger. However, a pleated filter rated MERV 8 can trap particles sized from 10 microns to as small as 3 microns. A filter rated MERV 11 or 12 can trap particles sized as small as 1 micron. These tiny particulates include lead dust and the bacteria that cause the disease Legionella.

If you are unsure which air filter you need to control the allergens that trigger asthma, consult with one of our Customer Service Representatives. We can help you determine which filter will work best in your home’s HVAC system.

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