Many things in the home contribute to asthma symptoms and attacks in children, says a new study. Though dust mites and mold top the list, there are a whole bunch of other causative agents in homes, including furry pets, smoke, cockroaches and airborne fragrances and chemicals.
While infections are also cause for asthma in kids, the new study, which limited itself to environmental causes of asthma, showed that reducing indoor allergens and pollutants can help control children's asthma, reducing their need for medication.
Asthma is a chronic condition that inflames and narrows airways in the lung that lead to wheezing, tightening in the chest, shortness of breath, coughing and in general making breathing difficult.
The makeup of children's airways may leave them especially vulnerable to environmental allergens and pollutants. Also, many kids spend time on the floor where allergens collect, the report authors noted.
The first step to controlling asthma is to learn what causes it. Allergy testing through either a blood test or an allergist's skin test can provide some vital answers. After identifying the environmental culprits, appropriate measures can be taken.
Dust mite allergy, which is a problem for as many as 6 out of 10 kids with asthma, can be helped by removing carpeting and stuffed toys, the report noted.
Vacuuming with a HEPA filter, encasing your child's mattress and box spring in allergy-proof covers, and regularly washing bedding in hot water are also recommended for controlling dust mites.
If your child is allergic to cats, another common trigger for asthma, then there is no other alternative than to find the cat a different home. “The allergen that the pet produces is airborne and very sticky, and so even when you try to isolate the pet, you don't really have any improvement in the child's asthma," the researchers stated.
Indoor pollutants can also trigger asthma in some kids. The study showed that smoking, even of electronic cigarettes, is the major contributor to indoor pollution. Giving up smoking, or at least banning it inside the house is key to removing this allergen from the house.
Parents should talk with their pediatrician about possible environmental triggers if the child is using asthma medication or experiencing symptoms several times a week.
Other highlights from the new study show that about half of children with asthma are sensitive to mold. Two-thirds of kids with persistent asthma are allergic to cats and dogs.
Cockroach and mouse droppings are also common allergy-asthma triggers. Concentrations of mouse allergens in poor urban homes can be 1,000 times higher than those found in suburban homes.
Gas stoves and other gas appliances can also play a role in some asthma flare-ups. Chemicals in air fresheners and cleaning agents often irritate airways and lead to asthma attacks.