Is Your Home Contributing to Your Child’s Asthma?
By Courtney Ronan
Is your home contributing to your child’s asthma? If you’re the parent of a child with asthma, you know how scary a sudden case of respiratory distress can be. And regardless of whether or not you’re directly affected by asthma, you’ve probably noticed that asthma is making the headlines more and more often these days. And that’s for a good reason: The number of people afflicted with this disease has sky rocketed. Although science hasn’t yet pinpointed exactly why this is the case, some environmental scientists strongly believe that poor air quality, which continues to get worse in metropolitan regions throughout Canada, is contributing to the problem.
What you may not realize, however, is that the environment in your home can also cause the conditions that lead to an asthma attack. Approximately 5 million children in Canada live with asthma, and while their parents can’t control everything outdoors that will affect their children’s breathing patterns, they can control the conditions at home that contribute to poor air quality.
An asthma attack occurs when the breathing tubes constrict, making it extremely difficult for the victim to breathe not only because his or her airways have become smaller in size, but also because the tubes often fill with mucus. At worst, the result can be deadly, and at best, frightening.
So what can you do to ward off these potentially life-threatening episodes in your own home? Start in the bedroom. What type of bedding is on your child’s bed? If you’ve never thought about it, then chances are good that those covers aren’t allergy-proof. Purchase an allergy-free mattress cover for your child’s bed, as well as allergy-proof pillow covers. Take a look at the materials in your child’s sheets. They, too, could be contributing to any ongoing breathing problems your child is experiencing. Make sure you wash all bedding at least once a week to kill any allergens such as dust and dust mites.
Consider the toys your child is hanging onto as if his or her life depended on it. Are they washable, and if so, have they ever been washed? If not, start washing them, and wash them frequently. If your child’s been hanging onto a non-washable toy for quite a while, and he or she has been experiencing chronic breathing problems, the toy could be a factor. Dust and other allergens have probably collected in the toy. It might be time to part (albeit painfully) with the non-washable object of your child’s affection, although the promise of a new (washable) substitute might lessen the blow.
Do you own any pets? Even if you’re fiercely loyal to Fluffy or Fido and don’t want to restrict their freedom to roam about your home as they choose, it might be time to do just that. It’s best to keep your pets away from your asthmatic child’s bedroom, your den or wherever your child spends considerable amounts of time playing or sleeping. While you might own a long-haired cat who you swear doesn’t shed a single piece of fur, every living thing sheds occasionally, and even the most vigilant duster won’t find every piece of stray fur lying about the house. So try to restrict your beloved pet’s roaming area if you can. Simply shutting the door to your child’s bedroom is a good start. And although it’s fairly obvious, it bears repeating: Don’t let your pets sleep in the same bed with your children. Cats, in particular, love to cuddle face to face with their owners at night. And cat dander (found in the fur) is a major contributor to allergy (and thus asthma) attacks.
Dust your home often. While dust happens to everyone, those of us who reside in drier, dustier climates (such as those in the Southwest) seem to blessed with more of the stuff. And unfortunately, your finicky grandmother was right: Dust lurks where you’d least expect it: on top of ceiling fan blades, above doorways, along windowsills and base boards, on top of furniture (just because you’re not tall enough to see it doesn’t mean it’s not up there) … you get the picture. So get out your step ladder, your Endust and the hose extension on your vacuum cleaner (for your curtains, drapes and those hard-to-reach places), and start dusting. Everyone will be thankful — not just your asthmatic child.
OK…the last point might hurt. You smokers face constant reminders about the hazards of lighting up. Here’s one more: Smoking can contribute to your child’s breathing problem. In addition to increasing the risks of lung cancer for everyone else who resides in your home or spends considerable amounts of time in your smoky presence, secondhand smoke has also been credited with increasing the likelihood that your child will fall victim to asthma and/or chronic allergy problems. So if you’ve been thinking seriously about quitting, now is the time. It’s good for you, and it’s good for your child. If you’re simply not ready to give up your cigarettes, then limit smoking to the great outdoors.
Studies have indicated that if you or your spouse is asthmatic, the chances of your child developing asthma are considerably higher. Regardless of whether or not this is the case, any child can fall victim to the disease. Most children exhibit the proclivity to the disease by age 5, although the disease can certainly “hibernate” and make its appearance later in life. With the exception of quitting your smoking habit, all of the above-mentioned measures are near-effortless and can make a considerable difference in the quality of your child’s life.