How to Reduce Attacks and Ease the Wheezing
The fall season doesn’t just bring about cooler weather and pre-holiday excitement; it also brings serious asthma-related allergy issues for children who suffer from allergies or asthma.
Asthma is diagnosed in over 6% of children under the age of five. Asthma causes the airways to swell, tighten, and fill with mucus. Asthma episodes can be life-threatening.
A child is more likely to develop asthma if a family member has asthma or allergies.
- frequent coughing, shortness of breath, or complaints of a tight feeling in her chest
- congestion with colds or colds that seem to last longer for him than for his siblings
- coughing or wheezing when she plays hard, laughs, or has a temper tantrum
- dark circles under his eyes
- smoke, dust, or air pollution
- allergies, including those to pets, pollen, mold, grass, dust mites, and cockroaches
- strong odors such as household cleaners, paint fumes, and perfume
- changes in temperature, particularly exposure to cold air
- exercise or strong emotions
- respiratory infections such as colds
Improving Your Indoor Air
- j Don’t allow people to smoke in your home. If you smoke, quit or smoke outside.
- Avoid wood fires.
- Switch to unscented or nonaerosol versions of household cleaning products and avoid scented candles or room fresheners.
- Make sure that all gas appliances vent to the outdoors.
- Choose an artificial tree at holiday time.
- Run the air conditioning, especially on days when the pollen or mold counts are high or when there are ozone or pollution warnings.
- Change your air conditioning filter regularly.
- When purchasing a home, consider buying one with baseboard or radiant heating. Forced-air systems can foster mold and dust mites. If you live in a home with a forced-air system, you might want to seal off the vents in your child’s bedroom with aluminum covers and tape. You’ll also want to have the other air ducts in the house cleaned and change the air filter in your furnace regularly.
- If you must open up your house on days when the pollen count is high, do so after midmorning, because counts are usually highest between 5 AM and 10 AM. If air quality is the problem, open doors and windows in the early morning hours before pollution has had a chance to build up.
- If you try these measures, but are still concerned about the air quality in your home, you might want to purchase an air cleaner with a HEPA (which stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter for your child’s bedroom or playroom. Central air filtration systems are also available, although they’re much more expensive.
Dealing With Dust Mites
- Choose leather furniture rather than upholstered furniture
- Do not use carpeting or area rugs
- Vacuum and dust your home (especially your child’s room) at least once a week. Use a bagless vacuum with HEPA filter or a special small-pore filter bag with a HEPA filter. Empty it outside the house
- When you dust, use a damp cloth to avoid spreading dust mite particles in the air
- Avoid feathers and feather filled items
- Wash all of your child’s bedding in hot water (greater than 130 degrees Fahrenheit, or 54.4 degrees Celsius) and then dry it on a high setting. This should be done every few weeks.
- Cover mattresses, pillows, and box springs with mite-proof covers (these are available from retailers who specialize in hypoallergenic products). Also, be sure to regularly wipe down the covers
- Make sure window coverings in your child’s room can be washed or cleaned easily
- Steer clear of knickknacks and unnecessary items which collect dust
- Store most of your child’s books in a room other than his or her bedroom or playroom.
- Keep your child’s collection of stuffed animals to a minimum. Any plush toys that your little one just can’t live without should be washed frequently in hot water (if they don’t contain batteries) and then dried on your dryer’s highest setting. You can also seal these toys in a plastic bag and place them in the freezer for at least 5 hours or overnight (dust mites can’t survive more than 5 hours of freezing temperatures)
- Avoid using a humidifier, especially in your child’s room
- Run a dehumidifier in the basement or other damp areas of your home. But make sure you empty and clean the water pan frequently
- Fix leaky pipes, faucets, or roofs. Clean and repair roof gutters regularly.
- Make sure your bathrooms and basement are well ventilated. Install and use exhaust fans to help lower moisture in these areas.
- If you have any damp closets, clean them thoroughly and leave a 100-watt bulb on all the time to increase the temperature and dry out the air.
- Run a dehumidifier in the basement or other damp areas. Again, it’s important to empty and clean the water pan often.
- Remove wallpaper
- Run the air conditioning (this is especially helpful if you have central air), making sure to change the filter monthly.
- Avoid houseplants, which may harbor mold in their soil.
- Clean any visible mold or mildew with a solution that’s one part chlorine bleach to 10 parts water. Don’t paint or caulk over moldy surfaces without cleaning them first
- When painting bathrooms or other damp areas of your house, use antimildew paint.
- If there’s visible mold on ceiling tiles, remove and replace them. Also check to see if there’s a leaky pipe that may be causing the problem.
- Replace or wash moldy shower curtains
Reducing Triggers From Animals & Cockroaches
- If you can’t rehome a pet or keep it outside, at least keep them out of your child’s bedroom and playroom.
- Wash and brush your pet every week.
- Make sure your child doesn’t play with or touch your pet and keep him or her away from the litter box if you have a cat.
- Wash your hands frequently
- If you have a pet that lives in a cage, keep it in a room that your child doesn’t spend time in regularly.
- Have your home professionally exterminated every few months. In between professional treatments, use bait traps to catch roaches (avoid aerosol sprays, which can aggravate asthma).
- Avoid saving boxes, paper bags, or newspapers in piles around your home.
- Don’t leave open food or dirty dishes lying around your kitchen.
- Keep counters free of crumbs or spills.
- Keep garbage containers closed.
- Wash recyclables before putting them in the bin.
Managing Your Child’s Asthma
It can seem overwhelming trying to trigger-proof your home, especially if your child has multiple triggers. You won’t be able to eliminate all triggers. Although you want your home to be a safe refuge for your child, you can’t wrap your home in bubble wrap.
Your doctor can help you decide which steps are necessary. But these are five solid steps to take, in general, when trying to reduce asthma triggers. Ideally, taking steps to reduce triggers in your home, when combined with the rest of your child’s asthma action plan (which might involve the use of regular medication and may even include allergy shots), will mean that your child breathes better and has fewer flare-ups.
One study showed that when measures were taken to eliminate dust mites, kids with this allergy had fewer asthma symptoms, needed their rescue medication less often, and were generally less sensitive to their other triggers.
For each child who has a history of asthma, teachers and caregivers can:
- help the child avoid known triggers
- have an action plan prepared by the child’s parents and doctor
- respond calmly to mild episodes, and use needed equipment or medications quickly
- Call 911 if a child is struggling to breathe or if his skin is pulled into his neck or rib cage when he breathes, can’t walk or talk easily, has a peak flow less than 50%, as measured by a peak flow meter, or has blue or gray lips or nails.
Courtesy American Academy of Pediatrics