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Children's Health Protection

The Dirt on Indoor Air Pollution

Indoor air pollution can make breathing a real chore if you have asthma. Maybe you have asthma or know someone who does. Maybe you’ve run a few laps around the track and found yourself out of breath, hands on your knees and gasping for air. Multiply that feeling a hundred times; that’s what an asthma attack feels like.

If you have asthma, you probably want to know how to reduce your chances of having an asthma attack. Ask your doctor to help you set up an asthma management plan that can help you learn to monitor your asthma, take proper medication, and identify and avoid asthma triggers (i.e., things that cause or worsen asthma symptoms).

Asthma is just one example of a respiratory illness that may be affected by indoor air pollutants, especially in young children because their respiratory system is still developing. Several indoor pollutants can trigger an asthma attack or worsen asthma symptoms. Common indoor asthma triggers include animal dander, cockroaches, mold, secondhand smoke, and dust mites. Since you, your family, and friends spend a lot of time at home, day care or school, reducing asthma triggers in these places is especially important.

So do yourself, your family, and friends a big favor: learn more about indoor air pollution and reduce trouble-causing asthma triggers.


  1. Dust Mites
    • Help out around the house! Reduce your exposure to dust mites by helping your parents keep your home as clean as possible and by washing your sheets and blankets once a week in hot water.
    • Keep stuffed toys off the bed.
    • Choose washable stuffed toys—wash them often in hot water and dry thoroughly.
    • Vacuum carpet and fabric-covered furniture often to reduce dust buildup. If you have asthma, stay out of the room while it is being vacuumed.
    • If you have asthma, make sure your mattress and pillows have a dust-proof (allergen-resistant) zippered covers.
  2. Mold and Mildew
    • Wash mold and mildew off hard surfaces and dry completely. Surfaces that absorb moisture may need to be discarded if they become moldy and cannot be thoroughly cleaned.
    • Talk to your parents about fixing leaky plumbing and maintaining low indoor humidity (ideally between 30-50% relative humidity). Make sure wet areas are dry within 24 to 48 hours to prevent mold growth.
    • Use exhaust fans or open windows when showering, cooking, or using the dishwasher.
  3. Pet Dander
    • Keep pets out of sleeping areas and away from fabric-covered Furniture, carpets, and stuffed toys.
    • If you are allergic to your pets, consider keeping them outside.
  4. Cockroaches
    • Make your kitchen unfriendly to bugs. Put food and snacks in sealed containers.
    • Always wash dishes after each meal and clean all food crumbs or spills right away.
    • If there is a problem, talk with your parents about using poison baits, boric acid, or traps, before using pest sprays.
    • Store trash in sealed containers.
    • Eat in selected rooms of the house (i.e., kitchen, dining or family room).
  5. Secondhand Smoke
    • Ask friends and family not to smoke in your home or car.


Help your school become healthy. Visit www.epa.gov/iaq/schools, and learn more about EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools (IAQ TfS) program. This program helps schools improve their air quality and is being used in thousands of schools nationwide. Talk to your principal to see if your school is already participating in the IAQ Tools for Schools program. If not, encourage your school to get involved.

Learn about a famous person with asthma and how he or she deals with it. Share your report with classmates or elementary school children.

Invite a doctor or local health care expert to talk about asthma at your school, church, or community center. To find a doctor, ask your parents or youth group leader for help. Before you call, write a short summary describing what you would like to achieve by having him or her visit your community.

Write an article for your school or local newspaper about asthma triggers and what can be done to reduce exposure to asthma triggers at home and at school.


For more information about indoor air quality and asthma, visit www.epa.gov/iaq. You can also call the Indoor Air Quality Information Clearinghouse Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. eastern time at 1–800–438–4318, or email the Indoor Air Quality Information Clearinghouse (iaqinfo@aol.com).

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