Asthma and allergies are the most common chronic illnesses for kids in the U.S. and attacks are often triggered by indoor air allergens, such as mold, dust, animal dander, and chemicals in everyday products.
If your kids have allergies or asthma, then follow these easy steps to reduce indoor air pollution in your home:
• Ventilation is crucial. “The building of tightly-sealed houses over the last two decades has made it much easier for moisture and dust to collect in homes,” Harvard professor Dr. Douglas Dockery notes. Many vapors trapped indoors, from perfumes and air fresheners to formaldehyde from particleboard, irritate asthmatics. When it’s fresh or even cold outside, keep windows open a crack to circulate air. On hot days, close windows and use air conditioners to ventilate and filter out smog.
• Don’t harbor dust mites. Microscopic dust mites and their droppings are a potent allergen and asthma trigger. One of the best ways to limit the amount of dust mites in your homes are to encase mattresses with impermeable covers (just be sure they’re PVC-free).
• Eradicate cockroaches and keep clutter to a minimum. Piles of dirty clothes are an ideal environment for mildew, mold, and mites; piles of paper attract cockroaches. Keep things clean to keep these offenders away.
• Maintain humidity below 50 percent. Dehumidifying is enormously important, as many asthmatics are highly allergic to mildew and molds. This can be measured with a hygrometer purchased at a hardware store. Droplets of water (condensation) on windows, walls or pipes are a sign of humidity.
• Minimize pet dander. Vacuum using a machine with a HEPA filter, dust frequently, wash drapes and rugs regularly, wash bedding weekly, and – for good measure – make at least one room a “pet-free” zone so your child has a reprieve. Of course, if anyone in your home is allergic to animals, you should reconsider having one at all.
• Keep asthmatics away from gas stoves. Open the oven door and you get a blast of nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Your asthmatic child should not sit in the kitchen doing homework if the oven is being used. Make sure that stoves are well-ventilated, too.
• Buy safer products. Everything you bring into your home impacts your indoor air quality. Choose unscented products as much as possible. Let anything with a “new smell” air out in a well-ventilated space or outdoors. And, watch for reactions even from natural products (essential oils can trigger attacks, too).
• Try air cleaning and purifying machines. Consumer Reports says a good air cleaner can help those allergic to dust and mold spores, citing the fan/filter models as most effective in removing airborne dust. The machine will help most in the asthmatic kid’s bedroom; but keep it at least six feet from the bed (it creates draft), and don’t place on carpet (it can kick up dust). But air cleaners & purifiers “only help if you’ve gotten rid of the risk factors first, like dust mites, mold and danders,” Harvard School of Public Health associate professor Dr. Harriet Burge warns.