The Best Childhood Asthma Remedy? Testing!
According to a recent report, the most effective remedy for persistent childhood asthma symptoms is testing.
All the remedial efforts are more or less meaningless unless pediatricians and parents understand the source of asthma attacks, according to the report from the American Academy of Pediatrics. And the only way to discover sources is to test, for triggers like dust mites, cigarette smoke, mold, pet fur and dander, rodent residues and droppings, cockroach debris, and aerosolized products like perfumes, air fresheners and household cleaners.
Ever since 1997, when cockroach debris was first identified as an asthma trigger among children, the concentrations of such allergens in poorer neighborhoods – up to 1,000 times higher than in suburban settings – has been an ongoing concern among health officials.
Asthma is now recognized as a contributing factor in persistent health problems and poor physical performance. Asthmatic children are often less able to use playground equipment, participate in sports, study effectively, even sleep properly, and sleep – as much as good food, fresh air, and clean water – is essential to good growth and maturation.
In terms of academic performance alone, the more than 14-million missed school days per year among asthmatic youngsters mean not only lower grades but an entire group of children who are deprived of performing at their best.
Left untreated, childhood asthma symptoms like wheezing and coughing can actually reduce proper lung function and reduce stamina, leaving weakened adults who work, live, and play less productively than their peers. This untreated asthma also causes about 4,700 deaths per year, the majority among children.
Sadly, this rate is as much as 15 percent higher among ethnic minorities and the poor. And, while outdoor air quality is still responsible for a portion of this death rate, the improvements recorded since 1990 mean that the larger responsibility rests with the air inside our public buildings, public living spaces, and homes.
According to statistics, almost 80 percent of U.S. homes contain detectable amounts of mouse debris. This includes not only fur, skin, dander, and droppings, but also the skeletons of dead mice trapped inside a home’s walls as generations of these short-lived rodents grow, breed and die.
In an older home, say one dating from the early 1900s (up to 1950, the advent of insulation), the skeleton of at least one dead mouse can be found in every three square feet of wall space – ask any renovator.
Newer residential structures also have their share of mouse residue, and this is especially true of large, cheaply constructed wood-and-drywall apartment buildings, and mobile homes whose “bellies” are a warm winter habitat for mice and other small pests.
In addition to the more obvious – and often less easily removed – sources of childhood asthma, there are family pets, ranging from (you guessed it) small rodents like mice, rats, hamsters and guinea pigs to larger, fur-bearing animals like cats and dogs.
All furred animals shed dander, which are simply dead skin cells. In addition, animals that groom, or lick, themselves clean have an extremely powerful allergenic compound in their saliva that eventually dries and becomes airborne.
Finally, the urine of cats, dogs, ferrets, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice and rats contain additional allergens which can trigger an allergic response.
Symptoms of an allergic response include red, itchy eyes, a dry cough, ear irritation (and infections), a stuffy nose, shortness of breath, wheezing, and itchy skin or visible rashes.
Oftentimes, getting rid of the pet does not help, either because the allergic trigger is not a pet or because the dander and allergens tend to live on, especially in carpets, fabrics, and – worst of all – in stuffed toys, which may be a child’s favorite bedtime companion.
To Be Sure, Test, Test, Test
There is only one way to identify an asthmatic trigger, and that is testing. Be it Dudley the cat or dust mites, aftershave or your favorite cleaning solution, only testing will identify the source, and only exact identification will enable you, the parent, to help your child recover from childhood asthma.
More important, why get rid of Dudley when dust mites – the asthma trigger for up to 62 percent of children – are the real culprit?
As study author Elizabeth C. Matsui notes, targeting all exposures is more likely to be successful than targeting only one or two, so extensive testing (relying on allergen-specific blood antibody tests) is necessary.
When medical testing finally identifies the source of your child's asthma, it is also a good idea to buy home-specific tests (for dust mites, mold, bacteria, dander and the like) and use them to identify the worst areas in your house.
And, yes, comprehensive allergy testing is uncomfortable, but better a few minutes of discomfort than a lifetime struggling for breath.
Once triggers are identified, doctors and parents or caregivers can institute environmental controls.
The first and most important are high-efficiency particulate air (or HEPA) purifiers, or air filters, in every living space but particularly in bedrooms and heavily trafficked living areas.
A second step includes replacing mattresses, sheets, blankets, and pillows (or pillow covers) with non-allergic, organic cotton or bamboo fibers. As we noted in a previous article, toxic chemical exposures are higher in bed than anywhere else in the house. These exposures include polyurethane foam, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or P.B.D.E.’s which are sprayed over polyurethane to act as a flame retardant, latex, dyes, phthalates and even pesticides.
Finally, either replace carpet, drapes, furniture and other “soft goods” with allergen-proof, organic fiber substitutes to curb dust mites, mold and mildew, or give all a good cleaning with “health sensitive” cleaning compounds and a good finish with anti-allergenic fabric refresher spray.
The process may be expensive, as many insurers do not cover home asthma control measures. However, there are private and public resources available to the determined parent (ask your doctor or your medical center’s social services representative).
Whatever the out-of-pocket cost, it is much less than the cost of lifelong, untreated asthma.
This post was posted in Blog and Green Library, Childcare, Fighting Allergies, Health and Safety and was tagged with air quality, allergens, asthma, asthma testing, bio-based cleaners, dander, dust mites, flame retardant, HEALTH SENSITIVE, HEPA, High Efficiency Particulate Air, mold, NON-TOXIC, organic cotton, organic fiber, P.B.D.E, pesticides, phthalate, polybrominated diphenyl ether, polyurethane foam