dark fumes coming out of door

Navigating Environmental Triggers of Asthma in a College Apartment

Last updated: March 2021

For all of you parents sending your kids to college - good luck! It seems like the dorms are well taken care of - but off-campus housing? Uh, they can be a little... questionable.

Daughter and her friend didn't want one of the apartments close to campus (where they squeeze 6 girls to an apartment) so they looked off-campus. Apartments are hard to find in our area because we have 2 large universities with over 70,000 students. So, getting an apartment before anyone else does (in a decent price range) can be a challenge. I looked online for 2 bedroom apartments and they were more than my mortgage!

New apartment, new triggers

I told her I wanted to go with her to check out possible apartments. She let me go to the first apartment, but she and her friend wanted to be independent and find one on their own. Let's just say if I was on the tour of the apartment where she's now living... well, I probably wouldn't have told them to rent it.

Over the years, we have been VERY careful to make sure each of our homes were allergy and asthma friendly for our family. Five of us have allergies, and four have asthma. We have found that we are very sensitive to environmental triggers, so we are careful about what kind of home we buy and how we take care of it (More on that in another post).

But college apartments aren't always so clean and well-maintained. Therefore, our daughter was going from a very clean and well-kept house to a very old and well-used apartment.

Environmental triggers of asthma

As we moved our daughter into her apartment, I wandered around. I saw dirty doorways, old carpet, blinds that were missing slats and a ceiling fan that spun so wildly that I thought it would jump off the ceiling! But they had found the apartment themselves and were proud of their independence. So I had to be careful about what I said.


The vent near the furnace was full of thick dust - which leads me to believe the filter hasn't been changed for a while. That means dirty air was blowing around the apartment all winter. Luckily, she has an air purifier she can use when the temperatures drop.

Heat and humidity

And there is no air conditioning. You may be thinking, "Well I don't have it either!" We live in a desert, where the temperatures are over 100 degrees most of the summer. Her apartment was 87 degrees the day we moved her in. We had to buy a room AC unit for her bedroom and a free-standing AC unit for the living room. We showed her how to change the filters and keep them running properly.


The carpet... well, I was trying to figure out how old the carpet was. Or when the last time it was cleaned. We bought a good vacuum with a HEPA filter on it so they can try to get the carpet as clean as possible.


I checked the bathroom for water damage or mold. No mold, but I could see condensation build-up on the ceiling. I looked around, but there wasn't an exhaust fan. So I told the girls to open the window after they shower and dress to get fresh air into the bathroom.

Letting my college kids navigate their own asthma triggers

They are slowly making their apartment their own. And her allergies and asthma seem okay now. So, maybe the apartment isn't as bad as first glance.

I know, I know. I need to let go of my college kids. And I will - as long as the apartment doesn't affect her allergies or asthma ;)

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