'Be aware': The subtle home danger facing 2.7 million Aussies

·News Reporter
·3-min read

Switching on the heater on a cold winter’s night might seem like a cosy option, but it’s putting 2.7 million Aussie lives at risk, according to experts.

While temperatures plummet outside, the National Asthma Council Australian warns a rising thermostat inside could spell trouble for the nation’s asthma sufferers.

“When you’re using your heaters in your home during winter, it can actually increase your indoor humidity levels, which in turn creates a perfect environment for dust mites and mould to thrive,” Adele Taylor, Sensitive Choice Program Manager, told Yahoo News Australia.

“These microscopic creatures feed off skin cells and grow well in humidity in bedding, blankets and winter clothing that has been left in cupboards all year.

a heater
The National Asthma Council Australia warns heaters can lead to mould and dust mites thriving inside homes. Source: Getty

“Mould thrives in warm, damp environments and can make itself at home anywhere there is low air flow or excess moisture, such as built-in wardrobes and in bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms.”

She says winter is a key time for mould to creep in and dust mites to multiply, releasing tiny spores into the air which can spark asthma and allergy flare-ups.

“What we find quite regularly is that people don’t necessarily know what triggers their asthma allergies or there might be something new that hasn’t caused a reaction before,” Ms Taylor said.

“And you turn your heater on in your home to keep you nice and warm, and you don't even think about the potential repercussions of that.”

The “life threatening” signs of asthma

People with asthma have airways that are more sensitive and prone to inflammation, according to the National Asthma Council of Australia.

Symptoms of an asthma reaction can include nose, eye and skin irritation, sneezing or wheezing, and severe breathing difficulties in some people.

For the nation’s 2.7 million asthma sufferers, Ms Taylor says it can be quite scary.

A woman using a puffer (left) and a little girl using a puffer (right)
Asthma can be life threatening so sufferers are being urged to know the symptoms are and what to do in an emergency. Source: National Asthma Council Australia

“People unfortunately tend to think of asthma as something that is just a quick and easy fix, but it can be life threatening so it is really important to recognise the symptoms to know what to do if there is an emergency,” she said.

“If you have any concerns or you are feeling any symptoms of asthma, please go visit your GP or talk to your pharmacist.”

Treating mould and dust mites

While it's important to protect asthma sufferers from cold winter air, which can lead to an increase in symptoms, the National Asthma Council Australia is urging people to manage indoor humidity with good ventilation, especially those who use heaters.

“Be aware of signs such as condensation on your windows due to lack of air circulation, or a crack in a bathroom tile or pipe,” Ms Taylor said.

Mould in the corner of a room (right) and a dust mite (left)
Mould and dust mites release tiny spores into the air which can trigger asthma symptoms in sufferers. Source: Getty

"To keep this space healthy, focus on good natural air circulation and use extractor fans. It is [also] important to find and fix the source of mould, as well as cleaning visible mould, to stop it from regrowing.

“Dust mites are nearly impossible to eradicate, but, as with mould, reducing humidity in the home can help to keep them under control.”

The National Asthma Council Australia also recommends opening windows regularly and leaving wardrobe doors ajar to keep bedrooms dry and well ventilated.

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