Your home and your lungs

How can I improve air quality in my home?

Nowadays many buildings are tightly sealed, meaning very little fresh air gets in and air pollutants can linger. To get rid of them, keep your home well-aired.

How to keep your home well-aired

  • Open your windows or skylights for 5-10 minutes several times a day, especially if you’re cooking or using the shower.
  • You can install a device called a called a humidistat that will automatically ventilate your home when it detects high moisture levels.
  • If you’re having building work done, ask how your home will be aired, and if there will be dust or a chemical smell.
  • If you think your health might be seriously affected, think about staying somewhere else while the work is going on.

Look out for condensation

Condensation on windowIn Britain, a lot of our houses are old, and the weather can be wet and cold, so we have to watch out for our homes getting damp.

Damp leads to condensation, which encourages mould and other fungi to grow. Lots of things can cause this, from cooking to washing and drying clothes. Condensation is more likely to happen in cold places in your household, like windows or rooms with external walls.

If your home’s damp, you might have an irritated nose and throat or feel short of breath.  If you have asthma, your symptoms may get worse. It’s common to have an allergy to moulds.

One fungus often found indoors is called aspergillus. It usually grows on dust and powdery food items like flour. It can cause a wide range of conditions, from mild irritation of your airways to more serious infections in people who already have a lung condition.

Preventing condensation in your home

  • Do your best to prevent leaks from your roof and any water damage
  • Keep your home well-aired
  • Use your extractor fan when cooking or showering to suck moisture out of the air, and keeping the door closed to stop damp air spreading
  • Dry your washing outside, if you can
  • Wipe down your windowsills daily to keep condensation down
  • If you find any mould, remove it straight away

If you have bad damp, mould or fungi get professional help to deal with it, if necessary - especially if you think it might trigger your breathing problems.

Drying your washing 

One study found that 30% of moisture in homes in Scotland is from drying clothes indoors. Dry your washing outside if you can.

If you can’t, the study recommends using a well-ventilated utility room or a low-energy drying cupboard. It also suggests that tumble driers are healthier, though they are expensive and use more energy.

Keep your home at a comfortable temperature

Air pollution can affect your breathing, but so too can low or high temperatures. High humidity, for instance, allows for the air in your home to stay moist, making it easier for mould to grow.

Keep rooms you spend a lot of time in, like your bedroom, at a comfortable temperature. The recommended temperature is 18°C (64°F). Don’t forget the importance of airing your home though. 

In cold weather, you might prefer your living room to be slightly warmer during the day. This is especially likely if you feel the cold and can’t move around very easily, or if you know that being cold can trigger a flare-up.

In winter, close your bedroom window at night, as breathing in cold air increases the risk of chest infections.

Download this information (275KB, PDF)

Last medically reviewed: September 2015. Due for review: September 2018

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.