Ask the Allergist
Is Indoor or Outdoor Air Pollution Worse for My Asthma?
Both indoor and outdoor pollution and environmental irritants can trigger asthma symptoms. It really depends on the actual environments to determine which may be worse. Air pollution comes from many different sources. Some sources are man-made, and some are naturally occurring. Air pollution includes:
- gases (e.g., ozone)
- smoke from fires
- volcanic ash
- dust particles
These are mainly outdoor air pollutants.
Indoor pollutants and irritants can include certain chemicals, sprayed substances, powders, and strong odors (e.g., perfumes). Sources of indoor air pollution include:
- household cleaners
- wood-burning stoves
- toxic fumes
- carbon monoxide
- odors from paints
- adhesives and solvents
- strong perfumes or cosmetics
It’s important to check the environment and identify potential pollutants and irritants that could worsen asthma symptoms. Both exposures can be significant and neither one is generally worse than the other.
There are several steps that you can take to improve your indoor air quality, including:
- Use an air cleaner with a CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly® filter (do not use air cleaners that emit ozone).
- Cleaning regularly to remove dust, pollen, animal dander, and mold from your home.
- Vacuuming once or twice a week with a CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly® vacuum.
- Preventing pollen from getting inside by keeping windows and doors closed.
- Changing your air filters regularly and maintaining your HVAC (furnace and air conditioning) system. Choose replacement filters that are CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly®.
- Removing items with strong scents (e.g., candles, air fresheners).
- Avoid harmful products (like bleach and other harsh cleaners) as much as possible.
John M. James, MD, is a board-certified allergist. He is also President of Food Allergy Consulting and Education Services, LLC. He has worked as a medical specialist in the field of allergy, asthma, and immunology for over 30 years. Dr. James received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas and his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Tennessee. He is board certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology.