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Asthma-Friendly Cleaning Products

Q: My son has asthma. Which house cleaning products are the best?
A: We spend a lot of time indoors these days, so it makes sense to consider how the air inside your house might affect your son’s health. Your aim is twofold: clean away allergens and avoid respiratory irritants. Fortunately, there are some simple products that can do both.


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Clearing Allergens

Each child’s allergies are unique. Talk to your pediatrician about which substances are allergens for your son. Allergens come from nature, and we are not sure why one child becomes allergic and another does not. Dust mites, cockroaches, pet dander and mold are some of the common indoor allergens, and there is a different strategy for clearing away each one. If your son is not allergic to dust mites, for example, then there is no point to using harsh cleaning agents to aggressively eliminate them. Check out this link — — to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, for details on managing specific indoor allergens. Another good resource is the American Lung Association article on controlling asthma triggers in the home:

The very process of cleaning itself can stir dirt and dust up into the air, so you may want to do heavy cleaning when your son will not be around during or immediately after the clean up.

Colds and flu can also trigger asthma attacks, so keeping kitchen and bathroom surfaces clean is important. However, it is not necessary to use antibacterial soaps or cleansers. Your goal is to remove or wash bacteria down the drain, not kill them on the spot.

Avoiding Irritants

Delicate membranes line the inner surface of the nose, windpipe and lungs. Some of us are more sensitive than others when inhaling things that waft through the air. There is some evidence suggesting a link between certain chemicals found in some household cleaning products and breathing ability. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences did a study of almost a thousand adults, showing a link between a chemical called 1,4 DCB (dichlorobenzene) and lung function. Those who had the highest levels of this chemical in their blood had worse lung function. 1,4 DCB is a white solid with a scent similar to mothballs, used in some room deodorizers, toilet bowl blocks, and for moth control. It may be surprising to hear that ingredients from solid and liquid cleaners can actually get inside our bodies. Yet, many liquids and even some solids give off vapors that we inhale, and some of these substances actually enter our body tissues.

Use your own nose to select cleaning products without harsh scents. When possible, choose simple, natural products whose labels do not carry serious hazard warnings. Plain soap, water, salt, baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice — along with a little elbow grease and a scrubbing sponge — can take care of many routine cleaning tasks. Follow the instructions on cleaning products and make sure the lids and caps are tightly closed when not in use. There is no replacement for good ventilation, so air out the house as weather permits, and use exhaust fans when cooking.

For more information, the National Safety Council offers tips on reducing air pollution in the home at:

Wishing you good respiratory health,
Dr. Anne


Asthma-Friendly Cleaning Products:  Created on August 29th, 2006.  Last Modified on January 21st, 2014


About Anne Meneghetti, M.D.

Anne Meneghetti, M.D.Dr. Anne Meneghetti is a specialist in internal medicine, pulmonary medicine and critical care medicine. Her background includes formal training in medical research, medical technology assessment and multiple forms of natural healing. She has won many awards for health policy, promotion of nutritional approaches, and anti-smoking initiatives. Her worldwide travels included volunteering at an orphanage in Calcutta, India, as well as health promotion efforts in Asia. Dr. Meneghetti is a frequent speaker and educator on ways to integrate conventional medicine and natural approaches. Her multi-media experience spans Internet, radio, television and print.