Create an "Asthma-free" Children's Zone in Your Home

03/11/2013

Creating a healthier indoor home air environment is important for anyone, but especially for those affected by asthma. To be successful, you’ll need help from the whole family. There may even be some expense involved; however, this investment will yield a wonderful dividend -- fewer asthma flare-ups and hopefully, a decreased need for asthma medications.

Identifying the Triggers

Credit: PhotodiscIt is important to know that a condition or stimulus brings on most asthma attacks. We call these "triggers." Once you have this information, you are ready to create an asthma control plan. Examples include but are not limited to:

  • Allergens - mold, pollen, pet dander, dust mites
  • Irritants - tobacco smoke, room deodorizers
  • Intensive exercise – running, swimming
  • Weather and seasonal changes - cold air, high ozone level days (use home air-conditioner instead of open windows), high pollen count days
  • Infections – colds, sinusitis
  • Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
  • Emotions - being anxious or scared.

Once you have this information, you are ready to decrease or eliminate your child’s asthma “triggers.”

Deal with the Dust Mites

Dust mites feed on shed flakes of human skin. They can be found on pillows, bedding, mattresses, box springs, upholstered furniture, carpet and even Brutus, your child’s stuffed toy. We may breathe in microscopic particles of the mites’ fecal matter and decaying body parts without too much trouble, but for those with asthma who are sensitive to these allergens, dust mites can cause genuine trouble.

In order to get control of these critters, here are some suggestions:

  • Use mite-proof encasings for box springs, mattresses and pillow covers
  • Wash bed linens, blankets and stuffed toys in hot water (130 degrees Fahrenheit in order to kill the mites)
  • Replace upholstered furniture with wood, vinyl or leather
  • Remove carpets and install polished flooring

Kitchen Concerns

Many kitchens are home to lots of leftover particles, odors and in some cases, mold. As gross as it is to think about this, cockroaches love the banquet of crumbs and clutter and tend to hang out in this area. And, even though they may be hidden from your view, their effects are widely known to your child’s asthma flares.

So what can you do to decrease the asthma triggers in your kitchen?

  • Keep the area as clean as possible by putting away all food
  • Remove the trash
  • Clean the counters
  • If one cockroach is found, they have lots of hidden companions. Time to speak with an exterminator for “natural” ways to get them out of your home
  • To combat mold, check under cabinets, behind the refrigerator, around the trash and dry up any spills or moisture left behind.

Defend Your Home against Asthma Triggers:

  • Don’t smoke in the home (and do your best to quit the tobacco habit) – the 4,000 plus chemicals in these products have powerful irritants that can linger on walls, furniture, carpets and clothing, as well as in the home’s ductwork.
  • Control the dust - Curtains are dust traps. If you must have them, use easy to wash curtains and launder monthly. Dust all furniture, pictures, vent covers and floor surfaces with a damp cloth (throw away the feather duster as all it does is cause the dust to become airborne and move from one place to another)
  • Be careful of home pesticides and household cleaners, as some may trigger asthma flares. This makes it very important to properly store these products
  • Pets - this can be an emotional issue in households where pet dander is an asthma trigger. At the very least, keep pets out of your child’s bedroom 24/7
  • Don’t eat in the bedroom. Cockroaches feed on crumbs. If you find tangled balls of dust, they may be cockroach nests. Their fecal matter, saliva and bodies can trigger some people’s asthma
  • Dry up the damp - get the hamper and plants out of the bedroom. Damp and dirty clothes are a great place for mold and mildew, as are houseplants
  • Have your air ducts professionally cleaned - this may help to remove any bacteria, dust, mold or mildew growing in these areas
  • Control humidity in the home. Use a home humidity monitor or a dehumidifier that allows you to adjust to the desired level between 30-45%
  • Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter and encased vacuum system. This is important as many vacuums suction in particles only to release many of them through the bag or collecting system and into the air
  • Use dust mite powder while vacuuming the carpets
  • Replace heating and ventilation filters as recommended by the manufacturer
  • Don’t lay carpet on concrete floors as this creates a perfect environment for the growth of mold and fungal allergens
  • Use exhaust fans or open a window in your bathroom after showering to remove excess moisture and prevent moldy build-up
  • Make sure fuel burning appliances are vented to the outside in order to avoid potential exposure to the pollutant nitrogen dioxide (a main ingredient of smog)
  • Do not use home air purifiers that produce ozone, as they can trigger asthma flare-ups. This information should be available in the product safety sheet (check the fine print or Consumer product reviews)

Lastly, asthma does not have to rule your child’s life, especially at home. For further information, please speak with their physician.

 


Dr. Rob believes in preventative and integrative approaches to medicine. He specializes in family medicine as well as children's health and wellness.
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