Is Your Home Air Quality Safe?
If you are a parent of an asthmatic child, you probably would have taken every relevant step known of to prevent flare-ups. Chances are too, that one of steps is to make an effort to keep the air quality of your home at its best.
Maintain fresh indoor air
Maintaining good indoor air quality in your home is an important aspect of asthma management. Irritants can be in the form of many – Cigarette smoke, perfumes, aerosol sprays, cleaning products, and even fumes from paint or cooking gas. Even scented candles or fresh newsprint have been known to be triggers for some children with asthma. The following are some of the most common triggers and ways to deal with them to significantly improve the quality of the air in your home.
Dust mites, a very common asthma trigger, are microscopic bugs that live in household dust. Their diet consists primarily of shed human skin cells. They’re especially plentiful in upholstered furniture, on some kinds of bedding, and in rugs. The highest concentration of dust mites in the home is usually found in bedrooms.
Did you know?
You can also seal 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!
Studies have revealed that when measures were taken to eliminate dust mites, kids with this trigger had fewer asthma symptoms, needed their rescue medication less often, and were generally less sensitive to their other triggers.
Molds are microscopic plant-like organisms. They can grow on many surfaces and flourish in a places like bathrooms and basements. Molds reproduce by sending spores into the air. Inhaled mold spores are a common asthma trigger.
To reduce moisture and mold:
- Fix leaky pipes, faucets or roofs. Clean and repair roof gutters regularly.
- Make sure your bathrooms and other damp areas 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 damp areas of your home. Again, it’s important to empty and clean the water pan often.
- Remove wallpaper and wall-to-wall carpeting from all damp rooms.
- 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 over moldy surfaces without cleaning them first.
- When painting bathrooms or other damp areas of your house, use anti-mildew 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.
Here are some steps to reduce dust-mites in your home:
- Vacuum and dust your home (especially your child’s room) often — at least once a week. Use a special small-pore filter bag on your vacuum or buy a vacuum with a HEPA filter. When you dust, use a damp cloth to avoid spreading dust mite particles in the air.
- Avoid feather or down pillows or comforters; choose bedding made with synthetic materials instead.
- Every few weeks, wash all of your child’s bedding in hot water (greater than 130° F or 54.4° C) and then dry it on a high setting.
- Cover mattresses, pillows, and other bedding or seating items with mite-proof covers and wipe down the covers from time to time.
- Remove any carpeting from your child’s room and other spaces where he or she spends a lot of time.
- Wash area rugs weekly in hot water.
- Make sure window coverings in your child’s room can be washed or cleaned easily. Do away from blinds, which have lots of horizontal surfaces that catch dust, or fancy curtains with lots of folds. Wash all window coverings regularly.
- Avoid upholstered furniture and pillows.
- Clean up the clutter in your home. Clear away knickknacks, picture frames, and plants that 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. Avoid using a humidifier, especially in your child’s room. Instead, run a dehumidifier in damp areas of your home, but make sure you empty and clean the water pan frequently.
Reducing Triggers From Animals and Pests
Animals are a significant asthma trigger — as many as 30% of people with asthma are allergic to one or more animals. Allergic symptoms are caused by the body’s reaction to a specific protein found in the animal’s saliva, urine, or dander (tiny flakes of dead skin).
Animal hair itself does not cause allergies, but it can collect mites, pollen, and mold. Any animal that lives in a cage, from birds to gerbils, will produce droppings that can attract mold and dust. If you have a pet and your child is allergic to it, your best bet is to find the animal another home.
Short of getting rid of a pet, try these steps (though they’re less effective):
- Keep pets outside. If you can’t, at least keep them out of your child’s bedroom and playroom.
- Clean 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 after touching your pet.
- If you have a pet that lives in a cage, keep it in a room that your child doesn’t spend time in regularly. Also, have someone other than your child clean the cage daily.
Cockroaches are another major asthma trigger that can be difficult to avoid in multifamily dwellings, especially in urban areas.
To keep cockroaches at bay:
- Have your home professionally treated every few months. 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.
Manage Asthma Better
Trigger-proofing your home can seem overwhelming, especially if your child has multiple triggers. The fact is, you won’t be able to eliminate all triggers. Although you want your home to be safe for your child, you can’t wrap it in a bubble.
Your doctor can help you decide which steps are necessary. Here are five tips to try to reduce asthma triggers:
- Put mattress covers on any bed your child sleeps in.
- Get rid of carpeting.
- Reduce dust.
- Get rid of any pest infestations.
- Don’t permit smoking anywhere in your home.
Reducing triggers in your home — when combined with the rest of your child’s asthma action plan (which might involve regular medication and allergy shots) — can help your child breathe better and have fewer flare-ups.