From Our 2009 Archives

Household Cleaning Bad for Asthma?

Study: Household Cleaning Aggravates Respiratory Symptoms in Women With Asthma

By Caroline Wilbert
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 23, 2009 -- Ladies, if you have asthma and you've been trying to get your husbands to help with the cleaning, you may have a legitimate health reason for cutting back on household scrubbing.

A new study, published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, shows that household cleaning increases respiratory symptoms in women with asthma. The 12-week study followed 25 women with asthma and 19 without asthma. All were the primary cleaners in their households.

The women ranged in age from 18 to 65. The non-asthmatic participants averaged 1.8 hours of cleaning per day and the asthmatic participants averaged 1.5 hours.

Jonathan Bernstein, MD and colleagues from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine assessed the impact of cleaning in three ways: upper respiratory tract symptoms (sneezing and runny, stuffy, or itchy nose), lower respiratory tract symptoms (coughing, wheezing, breathing difficulty, and chest tightness), and peak flow rate, which measures how well the lungs can push out air.

Upper respiratory symptoms increased for both groups. Lower respiratory symptoms increased for women with asthma but not for women without asthma. The cleaning had no impact on peak flow rates for either group.

The researchers say that asthma patients should be routinely asked if they clean their homes and should be warned about the potential effects of these activities on their symptoms.

The researchers say the previous studies have demonstrated that professional cleaners are among many working groups who are at high risk of occupational asthma. The authors conclude that "longer, prospective studies of nonprofessional household cleaners are needed to determine whether there is an association between household cleaning agent exposure and the development of asthma."

SOURCES: Bernstein, J. Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, January 2009; vol 102: pp 41-46. News release, American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

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