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Controlling Asthma

child blowing dandelion

Asthma affects 22 million people, including 6.8 million children. The serious medical condition accounts for 15 million outpatient clinic visits and nearly 2 million emergency room visits each year.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute estimates that asthma costs $19.7 billion a year in health care costs and lost productivity.

Common symptoms of asthma include coughing, especially at night; wheezing; shortness of breath and chest tightness, pain or pressure.

Asthma is triggered by various substances. If we control these substances, we can reduce the incidence of asthma or at least make the attacks milder.

Common triggers are pets, mold, dust mites, cockroaches, rodents, household chemicals, smoke, medicines and sulfites.

Oddly enough, exercise can also trigger an asthma attack. This form is referred to as exercise-induced asthma. If you take medicine for asthma, ask your doctor about how and when to take your asthma medicine before exercising.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends watching out for these asthma triggers:

Pet dander (skin flakes and dried saliva): Keep pets outside or at least out of the bedroom. Choose hardwood, tile or concrete floors over carpet, and don’t have furniture with fabric covers. If you must have carpet and cloth furniture, keep pets off of them.

Mold: First, clean off all mold using bleach mixed with water. Then, keep humidity in your home low using your air conditioner, heater or dehumidifier. Use fans in the bathroom during showers and in the kitchen while cooking. Fix all leaky roofs, walls and faucets. Clean and dry wet clothing immediately. Remove any wet carpet. Unclog drains. Make sure rain water drains away from your foundation.

Dust mites: Dust mites are tiny bugs found in mattresses, carpets, pillows, upholstered furniture, blankets, sheets, clothes, stuffed toys and any other item covered in fabric. To control them, encase your mattress and bed pillows in dust-proof covers. Wash blankets and sheets weekly in hot water. Do not lie on cloth-covered furniture. Take carpeting out of the bedroom. Wash stuffed toys weekly or at least keep them out of the bedroom.

Cockroaches and rodents: Keep food and garbage in closed containers. Use traps or baits to catch or kill these pests. If you spray to kill cockroaches, stay out of the room until the odor is gone.

Pollen: When pollen counts are high, keep your windows shut. Stay inside from late morning until late afternoon to reduce your exposure to the highest pollen levels.

Smoke: If you smoke, quit. Do not allow anyone to smoke around you or in your car or home. Also do not use a wood stove, kerosene heater or fireplace.

Strong smells or sprays: Try to avoid perfumes, colognes, hair sprays, room fragrances, talcum powder and paints.

Vacuum cleaning: Vacuuming can reduce triggers, but if possible have someone else do it twice a week. If you have to vacuum, wear a mask and then stay out of the room for a while afterward. Some vacuums also come with special HEPA filters or a special bag that can help reduce airborne allergens.

Sulfites: Sulfites are preservatives in food and beverages. Do not drink beer or wine and do not eat dried fruits, processed potatoes or shrimp if they cause symptoms.

Cold air: Cover your mouth and nose with a scarf on cold or windy days.

Medicine: Always check with your doctor before taking any medicine or nutrition supplements. Some of them can aggravate asthma.