May is National Asthma Awareness Month, get educated

Published 9:11 am Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Even though May is National Asthma Awareness Month, we should be mindful of the little “triggers” that cause asthma to flare-up year round.

Why? Because asthma is one of our nation’s most common and costly diseases. There is no known cause and over 20 million people have it. The severity of asthma, as well as the frequency of asthma episodes (attacks), can be influenced by exposures to allergens and/irritants (triggers) in the environment, both indoors and outdoors.

It is important to know that asthma attack triggers are often hidden. The most common triggers are dust mites, second-hand smoke, animal dander (skin flakes and saliva), cockroaches and their droppings, mold and mildew, and pollen. These triggers can be life threatening for the millions of people with asthma in the United States, and young children are at the greatest risk. In fact, asthma accounts for one in six of all child emergency room visits and nearly 196,000 hospitalizations each year in the United States. That’s more than any other childhood disease.

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Just imagine: you are short of breath, and you are trying to fill your lungs by sucking air through a tube the same size of a plastic coffee stirrer. That’s the helpless and scared feeling a growing number of people with asthma experience. Asthma is scary, but it is a disease that can be managed.

There are practical things you can do in your home to eliminate as many causes as you can. The more you reduce asthma triggers, the easier your loved one will breathe.

Here are a few recommendations on how to eliminate triggers from your home:

1. Ventilate smoke from chimneys and fireplaces properly.

2. When using household cleaners or other products with strong odors, vent the rooms to clear out the particles in the air.

3. Bedcovers should be used to keep dust from the sheets to reduce dust mites. This means making up the bed each day.

4. Wash bed sheets regularly in hot water and detergent and dry completely in a hot dryer.

5. Carpeting is hard to clean so avoid using wall-to-wall carpet. A good quality vacuum cleaner is a great investment, too. When purchasing air-filters, the pleated kind will trap more particles. Some even have an electrostatic charge that will pull more asthma triggers from the air

6. Stuffed toys can contain dust mites so wash in hot water if possible or store them in covered cabinets or boxes.

7. When dusting use rags that attract dust or a damp rag. Dry dusting rags only spread the dust.

8. Pets are great but one out of four people with asthma are allergic to them, especially cats. Keeping them out doors will help. If they must be indoors keep them out of the bedroom and off the furniture where you sit. Washing pets often may help control skin flakes.

9. Dusting and vacuuming regularly is necessary to help illuminate the triggers of pet dander.

10. Moisture may lead to many problems and should be reduced. If the room smells musty, then mildew may be present. Indoor leaks should be fixed to prevent mold. Water around tubs and showers along with soap scum provides support for mold growth so the area should be cleaned and kept dry.

Wet towels and bath mats should not pile up or they will become moldy. Shower curtains should be cleaned monthly to keep mildew from growing.

11. Pollen, bee stings, exercise, change in weather, poison ivy, drugs or certain foods are also asthma triggers. Make sure you work with your doctor to help treat asthma in you or your loved one.  Just as people with other chronic diseases have to work at monitoring their diet, the person working to control asthma has to work harder at getting rid of triggers. However, it is possible. All it takes is commitment and a little extra time.

For more information, call the Escambia County Extension Office at 251-867-7760 for a brochure on “Asthma and Controlling Environmental Triggers in the Home.”