According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, seven million people in the U.S. have asthma and almost two-thirds of them will experience an asthma attack this year. Parents of asthmatic kids know that these attacks mean more than their daughter "having trouble catching her breath." Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, rapid breathing and chest pains.
Parents and kids can control and prevent asthma attacks by reducing exposure to triggers. The first step is identifying what those triggers are. Common in-home triggers include dust mites, molds, pollens, pets, and household irritants. Secondhand tobacco smoke can also cause an attack.
If your child has been diagnosed with asthma, be sure you're taking the following six steps to reduce his exposure to environmental factors so you'll reduce the frequency of attacks.
1. Eliminate mold and mildew.
The easiest way to do so is reducing wet areas that mold and mildew thrive in. Dry shower stalls after use and pick up wet towels from the floor. Clean bathrooms using products that kill and prevent mold and use exhaust fans to vent steam.
Don't house indoor plants in bedrooms, and run dehumidifiers to keep indoor humidity between 25% and 50%. Kids should avoid wet leaves and garden debris outdoors (prime breeding grounds for mold).
2. Diminish the dust.
Whenever possible, non-carpeted flooring is the best, but if you can't get rid of carpeting vacuum regularly and use an allergen-proof vacuum bag. Dust all surfaces frequently and also look for ways to reduce areas where dust can hide and accumulate.
Keep clutter such as toys and books stored away and to a minimum. Additionally, consider replacing curtains with washable window coverings. Don't forget to dust lampshades and windowsills and wash bedding in hot water each week.
3. Protect from the pooch and cat.
Not owning pets is the best approach especially for kids who are highly allergic, but other steps can be taken that aren't so drastic. If you're considering welcoming a pet, research allergy-friendly breeds. The pet's fur doesn't trigger allergy attacks, but rather the animal dander found on the skin.
Reduce exposure to dander by restricting the pet's living space, especially keeping it out of bedrooms. Remove as much carpeting as possible — animal dander deposits in it and remains even after the pet is gone. Wash the animal weekly (that includes cats, too!).
4. Avoid irritants.
Make sure your home has proper ventilation. Change air filters frequently and keep windows closed, especially during peak environmental allergy seasons (this is when you pay attention to the weather report's pollen counts). Kids should also limit outdoor activities when the pollen count is high. Heavily-scented products such as lotions, perfumes, and candles could trigger reactions so limit or eliminate using them.
5. Stomp out second hand tobacco smoke.
As more venues go smoke-free it's become easier to reduce your child's exposure to second-hand smoke. Make your home smoke-free, too. If you or other family members in close contact with your child smoke, quit. The next best option is making your home and car smoke-free zones.
6. Control exercise-induced asthma.
With this form of asthma, vigorous exercise and prolonged exertion triggers the attack. To reduce symptoms, kids should always use prescribed pre-exercise inhaled drugs prior to any exercise routines or sport practices. Avoid exercising outside when pollen counts and air pollution are high or it's extremely cold. Additionally, kids should perform warm up and cool down exercises.
Asthma isn't a condition. It's a lung disease that has no cure. But parents can take simple steps to reduce attack triggers and help their child live a fun, energetic symptom-free life. For more information, visit NoAttacks.org that lists tips, resources and kid-friendly activities.