cooking smells, steam, mice, and cockroaches

Asthma Trigger Investigation: The Kitchen

One of the keys to managing asthma is reducing or avoiding contact with our triggers. Identifying the triggers that make our asthma worse is the first step in reducing them. Investigating triggers room-by-room may be tedious, but you can’t fix what you don’t see. There are all types of asthma triggers in the kitchen, and some are easier to find than others. Below are common (and not so common) things that may be impacting your asthma and tips to address them:

Asthma triggers from cooking

The smells from cooking

The other day I burned a grilled cheese sandwich. The smell of the burnt butter stayed in my small condo and bothered me for two days. Strong smells from herbs and spices or oil frying can hang around way past dinner time.

TIPS:

  • Close doors to other rooms to keep smells from traveling.
  • Use the exhaust fan or bring a standing fan into the kitchen.
  • Open a window if possible. Clean used pots, pans, and dishes every night to avoid lingering odors.
  • Leave a bowl of vinegar (if the smell doesn't bother you) or baking soda on the counter overnight to absorb odors.

Steam from cooking

The steam, especially when mixed with the aroma of herbs and spices, can trigger asthma.

TIPS:

  • Using fans and opening the windows can also help with steam.
  • Try to use lids on your pots when cooking on the stove, and open the back of the lid while keeping the front of the lid closed. Once most of the steam has been released, open the rest of the lid as you stand back so you don’t get all that steam in your face at one time.
  • If you can, cook on the lowest heat to avoid steam buildup.
  • Try different cooking methods such as crockpots, air fryers, toaster ovens, or the regular oven.

Hidden kitchen asthma triggers

Mold

Mold is natural, a common asthma trigger, and found everywhere--including the kitchen. It is caused by water, so sealing leaks and drying surfaces will help mold from growing. Obvious places of mold include around and under the sink, windowsills, under the refrigerator, and the floor or walls. Unexpected places to find mold include the coffeemaker or blender.

TIPS:

  • Wipe down surfaces and often and keep them dry to avoid mold growth.
  • If possible, open windows and use fans to cut down on humidity.
  • At the first sign of mold, clean it up with soap, hot water, and a strong brush.
  • You do not need bleach or strong chemicals to clean mold.

Cleaning supplies

Avoid using harsh cleaning chemicals like bleach and oven cleaners. These chemicals can hurt even healthy lungs.

TIPS:

  • You can make a paste of baking soda and water with a brush to scrub your stove and oven.
  • A combination of vinegar, distilled water and a few drops of essential oils (if they don’t bother your asthma) is an effective all-purpose disinfectant (please link to DIY cleaning article).

Common kitchen pests

Cockroaches

Cockroaches enter your home in cardboard boxes and paper bags. They eat the glue in both, so don’t store either item in your home.

TIPS:

  • Keep food in covered containers and wipe down counters.
  • Roaches need water to survive, so keep the sinks and counters dry.
  • Keep inhalers and spacers in closed containers or baggies and not on the countertop.
  • Use gel baits or diatomaceous earth to kill roaches instead of chemical sprays.

Mice

Mice droppings can also cause asthma symptoms.

TIPS:

  • Find any holes in your walls or cabinets where the mice can enter your home. Fill the holes with stainless steel scrubbing pads - the mice cannot chew their way through.
  • Pick and wipe up any spills on the floor right away.
  • Vacuum and/or mop a few times a week and as needed. Sweeping is not recommended so dust particles don't become airborne.
  • Use traps to catch mice instead of harsh chemicals.

What asthma triggers have you found in the kitchen?

It just takes a few easy steps to reduce asthma triggers in the kitchen. Please share your tips and tricks for managing asthma triggers in the kitchen in the comments below!

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