In Case of Emergency

If you or someone you know with asthma is suffering from an asthma attack get to an emergency room or call 911 immediately.


Asthma is the most common chronic health problem in children affecting 9.6% of children nationally and is the leading cause of visits to the emergency room and missed school days.

Rates of asthma continue to increase and disproportionately affect children, females, African-Americans, the poor, and urban dwellers. Asthma is a life-long condition but can be managed by monitoring and controlling environmental triggers.

The Healthy Homes Coalition offers free home assessments for low-to-moderate income families in the Grand Rapids are that have children with asthma ages 0-14.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways characterized by a variety of recurring symptoms that make if difficult for the affected person to breathe. Common symptoms include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Asthma is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Symptoms can be prevented by avoiding triggers, such as allergens and irritants. Asthma triggers vary from person to person. Common triggers found in many homes include:

  • Dust and dust mites
  • Animal dander
  • Cockroaches
  • Mold and moisture
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Fragrances, including air fresheners
  • Cleaning products

Who is at Risk?

Asthma affects people of all ages, but symptoms usually start during childhood. There are 25 million people with asthma in the United States, 7 million of whom are children. Asthma is the most common chronic health problem in children.

Children who have asthma have increased emergency room usage and hospitalizations for respiratory problems.

Older and distressed homes are more likely to contain asthma triggers, many of which can be repaired or eliminated through simple changes.


Wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, asthma attack.

Health Impacts

Asthma is a life-long disease that can be managed, but not cured. Symptoms and attacks can disappear for a period of time but asthma does not, and can flare up at any time.


Most people with asthma are able to live very normal, healthy, and active lives by limiting their exposure to triggers, using preventive medicine, and following the guidance of their doctor.  Controlling environmental triggers in the home can reduce the reliance upon medicine.  Some strategies include the following.

Dust Mites

  • Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to maintain humidity at 50% or below
  • Encase pillows and mattress in allergen covers
  • Wash bedding once a week in hot water.
  • Remove wall-to-wall carpeting if possible in bedrooms.
  • Use a damp mop or rag while dusting
  • Vacuum using a HEPA filter to trap allergens
  • See here or more information


  • Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to maintain humidity at 50% or below
  • Vent bathrooms and dryers to the outside. Run bathroom and kitchen vents while bathing and cooking.
  • Check regularly for leaks in faucets, pipes and ductwork. Repair as needed.
  • See here for more information

Cockroaches & Mice

  • Keep food, garbage and pet food in tightly sealed containers.
  • Never leave out food or dirty dishes.
  • Eliminate water sources such as leaks.
  • Mop and wash floors and surfaces at least once a week
  • Limit food areas to one room in the house.
  • Seal up crevices around the house.
  • Use bait stations and low risk pesticides to control pest population.
  • See here for more information
  • To learn more about using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to get rid of pests, contact Healthy Homes.


Did You Know...

Indoor environmental factors can trigger asthma attacks: dust mites, molds, cockroaches, pet dander, and secondhand smoke.


10 Steps to Make Your Home Asthma Friendly(53 KB)

Simple steps to make your home more friendly for people with asthma.

Asthma Home Environment Checklist(168 KB)

A checklist for the Environmental Protection Agency to help you assess your home for asthma triggers.

Clear Your Home of Asthma Triggers(242 KB)

A checklist to help clear your home of asthma triggers.

Asthma and Secondhand Smoke(578 KB)

A brochure from the Michigan Department of Community Health about asthma and secondhand smoke.

Lifting Parent Voices, The COFI Way

Every second Monday of the month at 5pm, the conference room at the Healthy Homes Coalition fills up with parents. They file in, greet each other warmly and find their usual seats.

Over a quick dinner, weekly stories are swapped and pictures are shared as parents catch up. Parents for Healthy Homes meetings are part support group, part advocacy work, part leadership training class, and all parent connection.

The leadership training component is a result of our relationship with Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI), a nonprofit organization based out of Chicago which connects parents to one another, helping turn their voices in actionable change.  COFI was created in 1995, with former community organizer Barack Obama as a founding member.


Why Parent Voices Matter More

Two stories featuring parents who are fighting to end childhood lead poisoned were told in local news this past week.

These two stories represent the voices of parents whose children are directly affected by the threat of lead poisoning in the community. They are just two of thousands more in the city.

Asthma: The Overlooked Housing Hazard

While efforts to fix lead paint hazards in Grand Rapids are currently in process and in the news, it’s important to remember that asthma is another major health concern for children in the city.

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