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All About Asthma - Identifying & Reducing The Effects Of Triggers

Welcome to the National Allergy November Newsletter! Here in Georgia, the weather is just getting chilly, but chances are that many of you have already brought out the winter clothes to bundle up for the holidays. These upcoming months are full of joy and family time, but they are also full of asthma triggers. Read on to learn All About Asthma - Identifying & Reducing the Effects of Triggers.


Katie Weaver
& The National Allergy Newsletter Team

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All About Asthma - Identifying & Reducing the Effects of Triggers

Asthma & Allergens

Children Bear The Brunt Of Asthma

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that affects more than 17 million Americans. Unfortunately, children bear the brunt of the disease. In 2004, about 4 million children under 18 months suffered asthma attacks, and countless other children's wheezing and breathing difficulties go undiagnosed. Because of asthma, an estimated 14 million school days are lost per year.

If you or a family member has asthma, you are well aware of the common symptoms like coughing, chest tightness, wheezing or shortness of breath. Such symptoms happen in an asthmatic person because the muscles around the airways become inflamed and the normal functions of the respiratory system are strained. For most sufferers, asthma symptoms are not a constant, but they come in "episodes" or "attacks" which can be triggered by some allergen, illness, or environmental factor. It is very important for asthmatics to be educated about their lung function and asthma triggers.

Allergens Can Trigger Asthma Attacks

It is generally agreed that the five most prevalent allergens that trigger asthma are: dust mite waste, pet dander, cockroach detritus, mold and mildew, and tobacco smoke. As a matter of fact, these are the allergens named by the National Environmental Education and Training Foundation in the 2005 publication, Guidelines for the Environmental Management of Pediatric Asthma. These guidelines are intended as a reference guide and are designed to be a help to health care providers, but the advice is valuable for any family with as asthmatic child and applies to adult asthmatics as well. Following are triggers identified in the report and solutions to help you reduce the effects of each one.

Dust Mite Allergen
It is impossible to get rid of dust mites, but it is possible to reduce their negative effects. The NEETF report suggests:

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Pet Allergen
Before taking drastic measures, like removing the pet, it is recommended that the child have allergy testing to see if pet allergen is a problem. If needed, these steps are suggested by NEETF:
  • Consider removing any furry pet from the home (find it a good home, keep it outside, or at least deny pets access to the child's bedroom.
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    ú Bathe the pet with an allergen shampoo twice weekly.
    ú Keep the pet off furniture and out of cars.
    ú Note: National Allergy also suggests wiping the pet each time it enters the house to remove allergens like pollen that may be sticking to its fur.
  • Remove furry pests such as mice and rats from the home with the least toxic method possible, such as traps.
  • Vacuum regularly with a HEPA vacuum or use microfilter allergen bags.
  • Use a HEPA air cleaner - especially in the child's bedroom.

Cockroach Detritus
Many people do not realize that the droppings and dead, dried body parts of cockroaches are a major source of irritating allergen.
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Since cockroaches are attracted by food and water, NEETF suggests:
  • Clean up spills and crumbs immediately.
  • Seal food in airtight containers. Fix leaks - check under sinks often. Use the least toxic methods of extermination first.

Mold & Mildew
We all know how hard it is to control mold and mildew.
For extensive mold:
  • If an item is too moldy to clean effectively, discard it.
  • If the area of mold is more than 9 square feet (an area about 3 feet by 3 feet), it is best to get professional mold remediation help.
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For normal household mold, NEETF makes these suggestions:
  • Check faucets, pipes, and ductwork regularly and repair leaks immediately.
  • Use a dehumidifier if needed to keep indoor relative humidity below 50%.
  • Keep the windows down in your car when first turning on the air conditioning to allow any mold spores to dissipate.
  • Remove leaves and decaying debris around your home, but do not allow your child to rake leaves, shovel mulch, etc.
  • Note: National Allergy recommends cleaning with All Purpose NAS-12 and protecting with No More Mildew. Both have no added fragrance so they are tough on mold, but not on you.

Tobacco Smoke
For years we thought smokers were only hurting themselves, but now we know that considerable damage is also done by secondhand smoke. While tobacco smoke is irritating to everyone's respiratory system, it is especially detrimental to an asthmatic child. If you smoke, follow these guidelines:
  • Try to stop smoking.
  • If you must smoke, do it outdoors away from the child.
  • Keep your home and car smoke-free.
  • Avoid childcare, social settings and public areas where smoking may occur.
A Word of Caution: No air cleaner will eliminate the health risks associated with tobacco smoke.

Environmental Factors Can Trigger Asthma Attacks

Cold Weather
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Exposure to cold air is a definite concern for asthmatics during the winter months. A growing body of evidence cites that cold winter air can be a serious asthma trigger. Cold, dry air aggravates airway problems and affects the asthma sufferer's lung mechanics. If you relate to the feeling of airway constriction during winter months, but you've never been treated for asthma, you're not alone: consistent exposure to cold air can bring on asthma-like symptoms, even in those who have not been diagnosed. If being outdoors during the cold winter months is an irritant for you or your child, covering the mouth and nose with a scarf or mask can help warm the air before it reaches the lungs.

Just breathing cold air can be a problem, but exercising in cold air can add to the likelihood of an asthma attack. A Swiss study compared the lung function and asthmatic tendencies of athletes participating in floor-ball (a popular European sport played in a warmer, indoor environment) versus ice hockey players. The researchers found that 11.5% of the ice hockey athletes suffered exercise-induced asthma versus only 4.2% of the floor ball players. They also noted that a much higher percentage of the hockey players were diagnosed with asthma, as compared with the general Swiss population. Thus, they concluded that "strenuous exercise at lower temperatures may be a risk factor for the higher prevalence of asthma and bronchial hyperresponsiveness."

Does that mean your youngsters should avoid exercise this winter for fear of exacerbating breathing problems, or even developing asthma? Not necessarily - there is some evidence that exercise can ease children's asthma symptoms. So, to exercise or not to exercise? Working out an individualized treatment plan with your doctor will help you know what amount of exercise is best for your child.

Household Chemicals
Scientists have long suspected a link between asthma symptoms and household cleaners and air fresheners, but what are the offending ingredients? Many household cleaners contain ammonia, chlorine-releasing agents, formaldehyde and petroleum distillates. Your best defense is to avoid these cleaning agents when possible by using chemical-free and non-toxic alternatives. Fortunately there are many chemical-free products for cleaning and odor removal. Protect yourself by reading labels for offensive chemicals and/or added fragrances. EnviroRite cleaning products are good choices because they are fume-free, vegetable-based, and contain no hazardous ingredients, petrochemicals, perfumes, dyes or animal by-products. Be especially mindful of these odors during winter when it is harder to open the windows and air out your home after a thorough cleaning.

Illness Can Trigger Asthma Attacks

Winter's Other Cold
Winter's Other Cold Can Trigger Asthma
Not only is cold air a concern in the wintertime, but so is "the common cold." I usually get something around the beginning or the end of winter every year. According to the Mayo clinic, "both children and adults are more susceptible to colds in fall and winter, when children are in school and most people are spending a lot of time indoors." For most, winter colds are an annoyance that keeps us from regular activities for a few days. However, for the asthma sufferer, a cold can be a major trigger for an asthmatic episode. The National Institutes of Health advises, "It is important to prevent the common cold, a trigger of asthma attacks." In addition the American Lung Association warns asthmatics to be extra cautious about that other wintertime menace: the flu. Viral infections like the flu can adversely affect asthmatics, causing mild to severe episodes. So, if your child has asthma, be sure to ask your doctor about flu shots this winter!

Breathing Help

Avoiding asthma triggers can really help with asthma management, but doctors also recommend these helpful tools*:

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On The Go Compressor/Nebulizers
Pari Trek-S Portable Compressor/Nebulizer

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I hope you've learned a little more about asthma and its causes, as well as some tips for preventing asthma flare-ups. May this season of thanksgiving be a wonderful, asthma-free time with family and friends.

National Allergy E-Mail Newsletter
The information in this newsletter is for educational purposes only. Always consult with your doctor first about your specific condition, treatment options and other health concerns you may have.

Remember that our customer service representatives have plenty of experience guiding people through the options for allergy, asthma and sinus relief, so feel free to contact us by calling one of our phone experts at 1-800-522-1448 Monday through Friday between the hours of 9:00 am and 5:30 pm Eastern Time. You can also e-mail us at

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