As a parent of an asthmatic child, I often find myself holding my breath and watching out for some trigger that might potentially take the air out of my daughter’s lungs. The viruses making their rounds at the school. Second-hand smoke in public spaces. Cold air on the soccer field. The list can seem endless.
Sometimes, we as parents of asthmatic children can get so caught up in guarding against the triggers “out there” that we forget about the ones in our own homes. The fact of the matter is that some of our own parental behaviors—such as the way we clean—can contribute to an asthmatic flare up just as easily as those outside triggers. Below are five housekeeping tips that your child's lungs will love:
Repel all roaches.
Southern hospitality does not apply to roaches, a common asthma trigger associated with urban living and southern regions of the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency states that cockroach droppings, saliva, and body parts can trigger asthma attacks or symptoms in some individuals. According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America (AAFA), roaches dwell near water and food sources, so to make your home less attractive to these creepy-crawly asthma triggers, you may consider the following:
- seal up any cracks in the exterior of your home—especially around doors and windows
- apply child-safe insecticides and pesticides to exterior of your home
- use roach traps or gels to de-colonize your home
- maintain clean surfaces throughout your home— clean countertops, tables, and sinks after meals and snacks
- promptly mop up spills and sweep or vacuum every day to remove crumbs
- put away leftovers directly after meals and secure packaged food in airtight containers
- take out the trash promptly
Ditch the dust.
Beware of the dust bunnies. If possible, use a damp cloth rather than spraying harsh chemicals onto your furniture and into the air, as these can trigger an allergy-induced asthma attack. The devil is in the details they say, and when schedules get busy, the deeper cleaning can be the first thing to fall by the wayside. Cutting down on clutter in the home will not only help reduce the surface area on which dust settles, but can also minimize the amount of time it takes you to clean. Also, regularly alternating between ceiling fans, blinds, chair rails, and baseboards—things that can be easily overlooked, will help you stay on track with deeper cleaning when your time is limited. Finally, keeping the windows closed and removing coats and shoes at the door will help shut out dirt, dust, and pollen that is often brought in from outside.
Tackle the laundry.
Skin is our biggest organ, and dust mites love the stuff. Everyday, we shed tiny flakes of dead skin, a microscopic smorgasbord for dust mites. Our skin debris collects in upholstered furniture, carpeting, bedding, and piles of dirty clothing. According to the AAFA, eight in ten Americans are exposed to dust mites every day. Every home has them, and even though they are too small to see, they’re not too tiny to trigger an asthma attack. The AAFA states that protecting your child’s mattresses and pillows with dust-proof covers is the single most important thing you can do to guard against asthma attacks caused by dust mites. The following points are other ways you can rid your home of these creatures:
- wash and completely dry your child’s sheets, pillowcases, blankets, and stuffed animals weekly in water at least 130 degrees fahrenheit in temperature
- avoid using bedding with organic material, such as feather pillows or comforters
- vacuum carpets and upholstered furniture weekly
- dry clean area rugs and drapery routinely
Avoid carpets and cats.
The Mayo Clinic states that carpeting can be a reservoir for allergy-causing substances that trigger asthma—especially carpet in your child’s bedroom because it exposes him or her to allergens throughout the night. If replacing the carpet with hardwood, tile, or vinyl flooring is not an option for your family, steam cleaning the carpet on a regular basis will improve the quality of your child’s home environment. Carpeting harbors dust mites and pet dander that usually aren’t completely removed with vacuuming alone. The AAFA recommends vacuuming at least once a week with a vacuum equipped with a small-particle HEPA filter so that allergens do not escape into the air. Vacuuming while your child is outside of the home is a good idea.
Maintain air quality.
What potential asthma triggers aren’t shut out, washed away, or sucked out of the house can be drawn through your ventilation duct work. Changing the air filters on your ventilation system monthly will ensure another level of protection and prevention for your child. HEPA filters are recommended. Other ways in which you might prevent an asthma flare-up and increase the quality of air your child breathes at home include:
- using ventilation fans when cooking and cleaning
- clearing unwanted odors through ventilation rather than burning incense or candles and spraying perfumes or fragrances into the air
- reducing mold growth by maintaining a humidity rate of less than 50%
- inspect and clean chimneys regularly and only burn dry wood