Asthma is a chronic (or long-term) lung disease that causes breathing problems and can be life threatening. There is no cure for asthma but it can be prevented and controlled with the right care. Approximately 1 in 12 Florida adults and 1 in 10 Florida children currently have asthma. Children with asthma can live a normal and active life.
An asthma attack can happen when your child is exposed to “asthma triggers”. Your child’s triggers can be very different from those of another child with asthma. Know their triggers and learn how to avoid them. Watch out for an attack when they can’t avoid the triggers. Some of the most common triggers are tobacco smoke, dust mites, outdoor air pollution, cockroach allergen, pets, mold, and smoke from burning wood or grass.
Wondering how to help your child cope with asthma and how to avoid these triggers? Here are some tips:
Mold grows on damp things such as shower curtains, bath items, tubs, basins and tiles. This is especially important to remember in a hot and humid climate like Southwest Florida.
- If you see mold, clean it up with soap and water.
- Use exhaust fans or open a window in the bathroom when showering and the kitchen when cooking or washing dishes.
- Fix leaky plumbing or other sources of water as soon as possible.
- Dry damp or wet items within 1-2 days to avoid mold growth.
Dust mites are tiny bugs you can’t see. They live in sheets, blankets, pillows, mattresses, soft furniture, carpets, and stuffed toys, such as stuffed animals.
- Wash bed sheets and blankets once a week. Dry completely.
- Use dust-proof covers on pillows and mattresses.
- Vacuum carpets, rugs and furniture often.
- Wash stuffed toys and make sure that they are dried completely.
Tobacco smoke is unhealthy for everyone — but it’s especially bad for children with asthma. If your child has asthma and you smoke, quit smoking. Asthma can be triggered by the smoke from the burning end of a cigarette, pipe, or cigar as well as the smoke exhaled by a smoker. Choose not to smoke in your home or car, and don’t allow others to do so either.
- Don’t smoke in your home or car.
- Don’t let anyone smoke near your child.
Smoke from wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, and bonfires contains a mixture of harmful gases and small particles. Breathing these small particles can cause asthma attacks and severe bronchitis, aggravate heart and lung disease and may increase the likelihood of respiratory illnesses. If you can, avoid burning wood in or around your home. If a wildfire is causing poor air quality in your area pay attention to air quality forecasts on radio, television, and the Internet and check your newspaper to plan your activities for when air pollution levels will be low.
- To help reduce smoke, make sure to burn dry wood that has been split, stacked, covered and stored for at least 6 months. Never ever burn garbage, plastics, or pressure-treated wood.
- If burning wood outdoors, keep your child downwind and away from the smoke.
- Have your stove and chimney inspected every year by a certified professional to make sure there are no gaps, cracks, unwanted drafts or to remove dangerous creosote build-up.
- If possible, replace your old wood stove with a new, cleaner heating appliance.
- Consider using a HEPA air filter in the same room as your stove or fireplace. Studies indicate that HEPA filters can reduce indoor particle pollution by 60%.
- Visit www.epa.gov/burnwise for more information.
Cockroaches and their droppings can trigger an asthma attack. Get rid of cockroaches in your home by removing as many water and food sources as you can. Cockroaches are often found where food is eaten and crumbs are left behind. If you have a severe infestation, it might help to contact a local Cape Coral or Fort Myers exterminator — but be sure to tell them about your child’s condition and check with MacKoul for advice beforehand.
- Keep counters, sinks, tables, and floors clean.
- Clean dishes, crumbs, and spills.
- Store food in air-tight containers.
- Cover trash cans.
- Use roach traps or gel bait to cut down on the number of cockroaches in your home.
Warm-blooded pets can trigger an asthma attack. If you think a furry family member may be causing attacks, you may want to find the pet another home. If you can’t or don’t want to find a new home for the pet, keep it out of the child’s bedroom. People with asthma are not allergic to their pet’s fur, so trimming the pet’s fur will not help your child’s asthma.
- Keep pets outside if possible.
- Bathe pets every week.
- If you have a pet inside, keep them out of the child’s bedroom and off the furniture.
- Vacuum carpets and furniture often, preferably using a vacuum that has a HEPA filter. If your floors have a hard surface, such as wood or tile, damp mop them every week.
Nitrogen dioxide is an odorless gas that can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat and may cause shortness of breath. While not incredibly common in Southwest Florida, this gas can come from the use of appliances that burn fuels such as gas and kerosene.
- If possible, use fuel-burning appliances that are vented outside. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to use these appliances.
- Gas cooking stoves: Never use these to keep you warm or heat your house. If you have an exhaust fan, use it when you cook.
- Unvented kerosene or gas space heaters: Use the proper fuel and keep the heater adjusted the right way. Open a window slightly or use an exhaust fan.
Chemical irritants found in some products in your house, including both scented or unscented products like cleaners, paints, adhesives, pesticides, cosmetics, or air fresheners, may make your child’s asthma worse.
- Use these products less often and make sure your child is not around when you use the products. Also, consider trying different products.
- Take great care to follow the instructions on the label. If you use these products, try to make sure that windows or doors are open and that you use an exhaust fan. Proper ventilation is very important!
- Infections linked to influenza (flu), colds, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can trigger an asthma attack. Sinus infections, allergies, breathing in some chemicals, and acid reflux can also trigger attacks.
- Physical exercise; some medicines; bad weather, such as thunderstorms or high humidity; breathing in cold, dry air; and some foods, food additives, and fragrances can also trigger an asthma attack.
- Strong emotions can lead to very fast breathing, called hyperventilation, that can also cause an asthma attack.
If you have questions about your child’s respiratory health, please don’t hesitate to contact MacKoul Pediatrics at 239-573-2001.
MacKoul Pediatrics is an amazing local pediatrics office in Cape Coral, FL where caring, compassionate doctors and nurses work with you to keep your children as healthy as possible. MacKoul cares for children from birth to college age, from Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Naples, and beyond.
May 25, 2015