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Household cleaning tips to help control children’s asthma

Reducing indoor asthma triggers can help keep kids feeling well, AAP says

Photo (c) gustavofrazao - Fotolia
Keeping a clean house isn’t always easy where kids are involved, but it may be worth striving for if you’ve got a child with asthma.

According to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), reducing household allergens and pollutants can help reduce their symptoms. What's more, eliminating indoor triggers may even reduce kids' need for medication.

The first step in keeping wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath at bay? Learning your child’s specific indoor asthma triggers. The group notes that the two most common triggers are dust mites and mold, but other culprits can include smoke, pets, cockroaches, chemicals, and airborne fragrances.

Identifying triggers

In the new report, the AAP urges parents to find out which indoor allergens may be contributing to their child’s symptoms. All children have different asthma triggers, and being knowledgeable about what causes the asthma is a crucial part of asthma management.
A blood test or allergist’s skin test can take the guesswork out of determining where to focus cleaning and source-elimination efforts. After finding out which indoor allergens and pollutants could trigger symptoms, parents can begin taking steps to reduce their presence in the house.
A sensitivity to dust mites, for example, may be helped by removing carpeting and stuffed toys, said Dr. Elizabeth Matsui, co-author of the report. Other ways to control dust mites include vacuuming with a HEPA filter, investing in an allergy-proof cover for your child’s mattress, and regularly washing bedding in hot water.

Pets and smoke

What if Fluffy or Fido is triggering your child’s asthma symptoms? In the case of pet allergies (which affects two-thirds of kids with persistent asthma), Matsui says re-homing the pet may be your best option.  

"The allergen that the pet produces is airborne and very sticky, and so even when you try to isolate the pet, you don't really have any improvement in the child's asthma," Matsui told HealthDay.

If you're a smoker and smoke is a trigger for your child, she recommends quitting -- or at the very least, refraining from smoking inside the house. And cigarettes aren’t the only smoke-emitting sticks to consider banning inside the house; e-cigarettes and marijuana can also trigger asthma symptoms.

Matsui believes that eliminating environmental triggers should be “an integral part of asthma management.” Children’s asthma symptoms can be greatly reduced if environmental exposures are targeted, she says, but it’s important that parents be thorough when targeting triggers.

Eliminating just one or two triggers won’t cut it; when it comes to reducing a child’s asthma symptoms, Matsui says parents should aim to get rid of all triggers in the house.
The full report has been published in the journal Pediatrics.

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