Can Central Heating Make Asthma Worse?

Can Central Heating Make Asthma Worse?

Central heating -  Can it really make asthma worse?

While you cannot be allergic to central heating itself, radiators can have an indirect affect on your allergies. Dust settles in between the fins and behind radiators, which is then circulated around the room when they warm up.

Breathing in dust particles, toxic pollutants as they travel can potentially trigger allergies, asthma, and other respiratory conditions!


The amount of debris, dust and even pet dander which builds up between the fins and behind the radiator is a major contributor to health issues like asthma and other diseases of the lung!

Not only that but also workplace problems like sick building syndrome!

Radiators can be effective when heating up our homes, but they are not great for respiratory health problems!


Dust movement in a room is influenced by radiators when operational, and those closest to the radiator have the greatest exposure to the dust particles carried by the thermal plume above the radiator.

However, without central heating our homes would be too cold which could lead to dampness and mold!

This can be drastically increased during the winter months, peaking in September when you start to switch your central heating back on through to December which can reflect on the NHS (A&E) admissions requiring emergency treatments.

See Daily Express - Snow UK: Warning - central heating can cause cold and flu symptoms |

House dust is made up from different kinds of organic and inorganic fine particles.  e.g., dead skin cells, nails, dust mite and fungi.  House dust is one of the most important examples of contamination to poor indoor air quality issues!


Radiators heat the air in a room and as the air warms up, it rises – this process is known as convection. Convection causes the air to move which can circulate dust around the room.

Heating of indoor environments in mild countries like the UK is a common feature for domestic and commercial environments to improve comfort.  Until now there are 3 major popular technologies in use

  1. Radiators
  2. Underfloor Heating Systems
  3. Air Conditioning Systems.

The movement of house dust is related to air circulation because different heating systems can influence patterns of circulation, with patterns of dust movements being characteristic of different heating systems.

Until now, the radiator is still the most common form of domestic heating in the UK.

The graph below shows the percentage of households with central heating systems in the UK from 1970 to 2018.

From 1970 to 2018 the percentage of households with a central heating system was a growing trend.  In 1970, 30% households had a central heating system.  Until 2018, there were now nearly 94% of households using central heating.

In the UK, the average outdoor temperatures are low, with only a short summer period, so the cost of air conditioning and underfloor heating systems can be typically beyond the needs of domestic properties.

 The reason that indoor air can affect the human respiratory system is because indoor air includes dust mite, fungi, and pet dander etc.

The cost for respiratory diseases in the UK is £11.1 billion every year in the UK!

There are about 68 million people struggle with illness every year throughout the world and 3 million people die from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

One of these respiratory problems that can be caused by unclean indoor air is Asthma.


What is Asthma?

Asthma is a common lung condition that causes occasional breathing difficulties.  It is a long-term condition that affect your airways.

The symptoms for asthma can be such as coughing, wheezing, and feeling breathless, if you should come into one of these symptoms, it could make your asthma worse and bring on an asthma attack. 

Asthma triggers can be different from person to person which include the following:

  • Airborne substances, such as pollen, dust mites, mold spores, pet dander or particles...
  • Respiratory infections, such as the common cold.
  • Physical activity (exercise-induced asthma).
  • Cold air.
  • Air pollutants and irritants, such as smoke.

Dust Mites

In the Asthma UK  Annual Asthma Survey 60% of Asthma sufferers told them that dust triggers asthma symptoms.

Dust mites are one of the most common allergy and asthma triggers that lurk inside our homes!

While these microscopic creatures resemble small bugs, dust mites do not actually leave bites on your skin. They can, however, cause skin rashes.

You are also more likely to have other allergy symptoms, such as sneezing and postnasal drip.

Dust mites can be difficult to get rid of completely but removing as many as possible from your home can help prevent allergic reactions

Frequently vacuuming, dusting and washing can all treat dust mites. You do not need any specialised products just warm water and use wet cloths that can properly trap dust when you clean.

To prevent dust mites coming back it is recommended that you dust regularly, paying attention to the furniture crevices, blinds, and other small areas where dust mites may accumulate. 

One place we forget is the radiator a regular clean in between and behind the radiators, especially where dust mite faeces collect in dust particles.


Pet Dander

Pet Dander can be a common trigger for asthma symptoms from wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath to full-blown asthma attacks.

Both furry and feathered animals produce dander, which is made up of proteins from hair, skin flakes, urine, feces, and saliva.

Since dander is shed from an animal's body, you can be exposed to it without even touching an animal. All you have to do is come in contact with something an animal has slept on, played with, or otherwise come in contact with themselves.

Dogs and cats are the animals that most commonly induce symptoms of allergic asthma due to their shedding of dander.



Mold Spores

Poor Ventilation Can lead to mold growth If you combine moisture with restricted air circulation you will create a humid and moist environment, the ideal environment for mold to grow and thrive.

The high temperature not only warms the house but also reduces humidity, which is an important factor for mold to grow. Central heating emits enough warmth to reduce the average humidity in the entire house, but it does not kill mold directly. Central heating does not work well on specific spots with abundant mold colony.

Mold is a type of fungus that grows in damp places. If you have got mold at home, you will probably notice black, white, or green patches on the walls, ceilings, or tiles, which can smell musty and damp.


Mold is more common in homes that need repairs like window frames fixed, or leaks sorted out. You might notice it is damper and moldier in bathrooms or kitchens because of condensation from washing and cooking.

Watch out for damp and mold in your home. This is also a major contribution to making your asthma worse. Try and open your windows and doors to allow the air to move around but be cautious on high pollen or pollution can trigger off your asthma.

Try avoiding drying your clothes indoors, especially on or in front of your radiators.  If you have nowhere else to dry them, open a window if you can. Try to keep your home at a good background temperature so it never gets too cold - at least 15 degrees in all rooms.

Dust mites are a major problem too, in a house that can be damp and warm.

If you do have asthma you have ‘sensitive’ airways that are inflamed and ready to react when they come into contact with something they do not like.

If you come into contact with one of your asthma trigger it causes your airways to react in three ways:

  1. The muscles around the walls of the airways tighten so that the airways become narrower.
  2. The lining of the airways becomes inflamed and starts to swell.
  3. Sticky phlegm or mucus sometimes builds up, which can narrow the airways even more.

  Did you know?

  • 4 million people in the UK are currently receiving treatment for asthma: 1.1 million children (1 in 11) and 4.3 million adults (1 in 12).
  • Every 10 seconds someone is having a potentially life-threatening asthma attack in the UK.
  • On average, 3 people die from an asthma attack in the UK every day
  • Around 200,000 people in the UK have severe asthma, this is a debilitating form of the condition that does not respond to usual treatments and can cause people to be in and out of hospital
  • The NHS spends around £1 billion a year treating and caring for people with asthma.
  • In 2016/17 (Most recent data available) there were 77,124 admissions to hospital for asthma in the UK.
  • In 2017 (Most recent data available) 1,484 people in the UK died from an asthma attack in the UK.

 The above Information from - Asthma UK


Dust, it is inevitable. It gets everywhere, and we all know what that feels like. Even after an intensive cleaning session it still finds its way to the most remote places - Yes one being behind the Radiator!

When cleaning our homes, we always seem to forget about our radiator’s which can become extremely dusty!

See Blog: Tip To Avoid Dust and Dirt In Your Home

Radiators are manufactured in such a way that dust and dirt can become trapped in between the fins and behind quite easily, which takes a considerable amount of time to make sure it is all gone if you are not using the correct cleaning procedures!


 See Blog: Can You Be Allergic To Central Heating

Hospital - Cleaning Radiators Facts!

  • Cleanliness in relation to the healthcare sector (both premises and equipment) has been classed as a key issue for the NHS since 2000 (National Patient Safety Agency, 2010).  It is important to current hospital cleaning regimes are adhered too.
  • Some studies have noted that the radiator may be a potential area of concern when considering cleanliness.
  • Hospitals currently acknowledge that radiators are a potential haven for pathogens and bacteria. This is evidenced through numerous hospital cleaning guidelines having clearly defined methods and regimes to follow when cleaning radiators.
  • Radiators are classed as a non-critical area in relation to cleaning, yet they are one of the only non-critical areas which have an inaccessible section which can allow dust accumulation.

  • Studies have linked radiators being used after a long period of inactivity and the spread of bacteria.

  • A study by Dancer noted that dirty hospitals can be considered to be linked with the outbreak of “superbugs”; to combat these hospitals should have a specific cleaning regime.

  • The study suggests that the radiator may be considered a “general surface” which is cleaned in the same way as floors, beds, lockers, and clinical equipment (Dancer, 2009)

  • The radiator is one of the only surfaces which has a completely inaccessible area which cannot be easily cleaned with traditional methods. Studies have also highlighted potential links with outbreaks of certain infections and radiator cleanliness.

  • In very high-risk areas (operating theatres, intensive care units etc.); high risk areas (toilets, general wards etc.) and significant risk areas (laboratories, pathology departments etc.) radiators require one full clean daily. (NHS 2007).

  • In low-risk areas (administrative areas, non-sterile supply areas etc.) they require one full clean on a monthly basis.


Keele University Research

In summary of our findings so far, we cannot conclusively determine a relationship between household dust from behind radiators and health impact.

But it can be said that radiators are a key contributor to air and dust movement in a room, and that dust does demonstrate a health impact on occupants.

We are at present working with Keele University aiming to identify the relationship between dust and common health problems, such as respiratory and asthma.  We have identified so far that dust is becoming an ever – increasing problem. 

Keele Research Innovation and Support Programme

So, watch this space we will publish more on findings very soon!

How to keep your Radiators Dust free!

As part of your home cleaning regime, we recommend that you periodically clean your radiators behind and in between.#

See Blog: Radiator Cleaning Tools

Picture 1 – Remove the excessive dust and grime with a vacuum.

Picture 2 – Remove any stains and very fine particles of dust with a moist cloth.

Picture 3 – Shows the amount of dirt that has been cleaned from the radiator.

See Blog: How To Clean Radiator Fins


It is now becoming more evident that as a result of Covid 19 how poor indoor air quality has become in our home as a result of increased exposure to airborne contaminants, as witnessed during January, February of 2021 when it was at its peak.

See Blog: Cleaning Radiators - Covid-19

By being able to access your radiators for periodic deep cleaning to remove the dust this could make a significant contribution to improving your health and wellbeing as now are currently being used in the health care sector.

You should be aware when cleaning your homes to remember your radiators, as they are an important influence on air quality around the home.

The Rotarad solution to allow instant full access behind steel panel radiators for cleaning and decorating, is by installing the affordable retrofit conversion kit for existing and new installations, to eliminate the need to remove the radiator to address these issues.

So now there is a simple way of reducing this problem when using accessible radiators. 


For tips for when it comes to decorating behind your radiators please see recommended blogs:

How To Paint Behind A Radiator Without Removing It

Remove Radiator From Wall

How To Stop Wallpaper Peeling Behind A Radiator























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