Minor adjustments to your everyday routine can yield enormous results when it comes to preventing asthma attacks. How you ask. Let’s look at just one kind of asthma. Extrinsic, or allergic, asthma is instigated by environmental triggers. Most childhood asthma falls in the extrinsic category. It is more frequent in boys than girls. Asthma is the most common childhood illness, accounting for 10 million lost school days annually. Asthma affects 5 million children in the U.S. Common culprits are
– air conditioning
– air pollution, including atmospheric ozone
– animal saliva, urine and dander
– chemicals (particularly hexachlorophene, formalin, ethylene diamine)
– cold air
– colds and upper respiratory tract infections
– drugs (especially aspirin, cimetidine, antibiotics, beta blockers)
– dust mites and their droppings
– exertion (especially if strenuous and in cold air)
– food additives or preservatives (especially tartrazine or sulfur dioxide)
– fungal spores
– fumes (e.g., paint)
As you can see, many of these causes are found in the home. So how can we do a better job fighting asthma in our indoor environments?
Here are some tips:
– Dust frequently.
– Vacuum frequently; use a cylinder vacuum instead of an upright model. Using a HEPA, or high efficiency particulate air, vacuum is optimum. These vacuums are equipped with high-spec pre-filter and filter systems; they are sealed, allergen-free and designed to remove and trap allergens such as bacteria and mold-filled dust that normal vacuums can’t.
– Clean carpeting and drapes regularly. Carpet is a huge hideout for asthma allergens, harboring dust mites and pet dander–the two most common triggers of childhood asthma.
– Replace carpeting with non-fibrous flooring, such as tile or hardwood, particularly in the bedroom.
– Replace feather pillows and down comforters with those containing synthetic fibers; use a plastic mattress cover.
– Wash bedding in hot water (130 degrees Fahrenheit) to kill dust mites and remove allergens. Alternately, you can place bedding in an airtight container for 48 hours.
– Place stuffed toys in the freezer for 24 hours or in an airtight container for 48 hours to kill dust mites.
– Wear a scarf over your nose and mouth in cold weather.
– Monitor the pollen count in spring, summer and fall; avoid open fields when pollen counts are high.
– Always keep your medication with you in case of an attack.
Using an air filter can also help prevent asthma attacks. Following are some different options:
– Use an HEPA air filter. They feature a minimum particle removal efficiency of 99.97% for all particles 0.3 microns in diameter and larger. This size covers most pollen, mold spores, animal hair and dander, dust mites, bacteria, smoke particles and dust.
– Use an air purifier. They are classified according to the technology they utilize to remove different-sized particles from the air. Certain models use a chemical process, such as ozonization, to purify the air.
– Install a large room unit air purifier. These air purifiers utilize strong filters or collecting plates; some large units use electrostatic precipitation. These purifiers are highly effective at removing pollutants, particularly smoke and dirt, from large areas. They are more effective as single room units than as fixed central air filters.
– Install air filters. The efficiency of different models is measured by the size of particles they can remove from the air. They are classified in two categories: central filtration, or induct, systems and portable units with fan attachments. Central filtration systems are installed in heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Asthmatics should choose a HEPA filter that can trap very small and very large particles.
– Use a tabletop air purifier. These models are equipped with small panels of dry, loosely packed, low-density fiber filters and a high-velocity fan. Although these models are fairly inexpensive, be sure that the specifications match your requirements to remove very small particles from the air that can trigger asthma attacks.