Irritants to avoid during National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month

May 13, 2019

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recognizes May as National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. Spring is a peak season for people affected by asthma and allergies.

ANTHC’s Air and Health Homes Program wants Alaska Native people to recognize potential in-home irritants that can trigger asthma and allergies.

Download a PDF with tips on asthma irritants to avoid here.

Asthma is a chronic disease that causes irritation and swelling of the airways, impacting the lungs and breathing. Asthma can affect people of all ages throughout Alaska. For some people, asthma is a minor annoyance, but for others, it can be a life-threatening condition.

If you or someone you know has asthma, avoid the following irritants to reduce your risk of triggering an asthma attack:

Environmental Tobacco Smoke
Also known as secondhand smoke, Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) is found in the air where people smoke. ETS can trigger asthma attacks and irritate sensitive lungs. If you smoke, consider quitting, but in the meantime, smoke outside and away from anybody who has asthma.

If you have a woodstove, burn wood wisely. Burn the driest possible untreated wood—it burns hotter, longer and releases less smoke. Consider upgrading your woodstove to an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certified woodstove. Burning wisely will reduce the amount of asthma-triggering particulates released into the air from wood burning.

Scented Cleaning Products
Mainstream cleaning products have chemicals in them that irritate lungs.

Avoid buying products with chemicals like BPA, phthalates and parabens, benzalkonium chloride, and fragrance or make your own cleaning products out of vinegar, baking soda, and water. See the Green Cleaning tip sheet on the Air and Healthy Homes website.

Pet Dander
Pets shed more than just fur! Similar to dandruff, pets shed dander. Dander is an asthma irritant!  Dust or vacuum often and keep pets out of sleeping areas to reduce the risk of irritation.

Dust and dust mites
Dust can be anything from chemicals to dust mite body parts to skin cells and is all over. Reduce dust in your home by dusting weekly and washing bedding at least every other week. Dust mites like to live in bedding and trigger asthmatic and allergy attacks.

Fragrance in personal care products like perfumes and body sprays tends to be an irritant. Besides being an irritant, fragrance ingredients can include chemicals that haven’t been tested for health impacts. Aim to buy fragrance-free products.

Mold is a lung irritant. To get rid of mold, first, fix your moisture problem. Turn on fans, and open doors and windows to lower the moisture in your home. Use a tool like a hygrometer to keep track of moisture in the air. Scrub moldy areas with vinegar and then pat dry.

For more information, contact ANTHC’s Air and Healthy Homes Program at or visit

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