Friday, February 1, 2013

Strategies for Home Asthma-Proofing or Asthma Reduction

Your child can still have teddy. Teddy might have to be placed in a clear bag in the freezer a couple of times a week, and this will help to kill dust mites.  Teddy, don't look so sad. It's for a good cause !

    Asthma is a leading cause of absenteeism from work and from school.  In continuation of our posts series updating information on asthma, I am continuing.  In our first post, I looked at conventional diagnosis and conventional treatment of asthma.  It has long been known that there are a number of actions families can take which really will diminish the amount of asthma experienced by the family. Some of them are easily implemented, and others can be quite difficult depending upon where you reside, how your home is constructed, and what your allergies are.  However, sometimes making these changes to a household can allow a family to either significantly diminish the medications they use for asthma prevention, or in a few cases, stop them entirely, except during respiratory infections, where many asthmatic need extra help to avoid a flare-up of their asthma.
               In my case, a portion of my asthma is triggered by my owning a cat.  It is true that many people develop a tolerance for the cat that they have raised from young kittenhood, and that they may not react as strongly to him as to others, however this can be a problem.

        Here are some facts on allergies to cats as it impacts asthma:

1. The problem is not owning a cat, per se.  Many asthmatics own a barn cat or outdoor cat with few difficulties. It's when the cat comes indoors to live with them, and particularly when they share a sleeping area that problems arise.
2. Living with an indoor cat predisposes young children to asthma in later life because it may sensitize them.
3. Cat allergy is why some children do not outgrow their asthma, as they grow, and their airways grow.
4. The cause of cat allergy is a protein called Fel D 1. This is produced in the sebaceous glands of all cats. Male cats tend to produce more of it, until they are neutered.  This protein is deposited on their cat fur when they groom. It enters the air from the fur where it remains a persistent allergen.
5. Probably the best action is not to own a cat, however for those of us who love our cat as much as we love our breathing, there are some actions we can take.

  1. If you allow your cat in your home, then keep him out of the bedrooms.  Human beings can tolerate a fair amount in the world, if during their sleeping period, they can rest and recharge in an allergen reduced or allergen free area.
 2. You can get a HEPA filter for use in the bedroom while you sleep with the cat out of the room.  Both Wal-Mart and Lowes sell these.  Make sure you follow the directions for filter changes in order to keep the air as clear as possible.
3. Studies indicate that the special washes for cats do not do a great deal to diminish levels of Fel D 1.
    Some people bathe their cats frequently and notice a difference.  My cat bathes himself and would not approve.
4. Experts still agree that cat allergic persons should still not have cats in their homes.

        How you do with your asthma depends in large part, exactly what you are allergic to, and this is where allergy testing can be very helpful. This can help you to focus your efforts and not to do things in your home to abate asthma which may not be needed.

        Many of us who have asthma are allergic to molds.  Those who are should try to avoid a humidity level greater than 50%.  To keep mold down, keep bathrooms, kitchens and damp basements as clean as you can. Sometimes, a family member without asthma must do the lion's share of cleaning. With mold, a classical mask may not be enough to allow an allergic person to clean the area.   I am also afraid that sometimes this is where some of us would like a cleaning lady !

A vacuum with a true HEPA filter can be invaluable.  I bought mine reasonably from

 Air conditioning and a dehumidifier can achieve this, depending upon where you live.    If pollens and molds are a problem for you, then you should keep your windows closed, and use your heating and cooling system to filter the molds and pollens for you.  You will need to be religious about the monthly changing of the filters to your system.  Fortunately, Lowes and Home Depot are running specials on multiple packages of disposable heating system filters. I recently paid seven dollars for a package of five.  Changing these frequently alone can make a difference in terms of the amount of asthma experienced.

      An awful lot of us are allergic to dust mites.  Allergist recommend that we enclose our pillows in a particular type of covering (not a plastic) and use mattress covers also.  These used to be extremely expensive, but Wal-Mart has started carrying soft mattress covers and a line of pillow covers which help the allergic person to sleep better. Although these are more expensive than the older plastic variety, they are comfortable and a lot cheaper than the types of coverings found as recently as a couple of years ago, solely in allergy and asthma catalogs.

    Don't smoke, and don't allow smoking within your home.  This has been proven to worsen asthma whether the individuals in your home are allergic to smoking or not.

     We also know that most people are fairly tolerant to allergens in their home environment, IF and only IF they have an absolutely allergen free or allergen reduced sleeping area. Apparently, an allergen free sanctuary for sleep helps us to tolerate less than perfection during the day.
Here are some things in addition to pillow and mattress covering which can be done that can help.

1. When there is high ozone, high mold or pollen, use your air conditioning, especially while sleeping.
2. Use your dryer to dry clothing, rather than hanging bed linens outside during times of the year in which pollen or mold is plentiful.  (I really blew this one year and gave myself terrible asthma as soon as I lay down to sleep !)
3. Avoid perfumes or heavily scenting laundry detergents.
4.Avoid dryer sheets or cut them in half just to avoid static cling. Avoid scented candles.

5.Avoid wood fires and avoid NON VENTED gas logs.  If you have asthma, you need a vented gas log set-up.
6. Consider washing your sheets in hot water. Allergists believe that hot water kills microscopic dust mites and makes this cause for your asthma much less likely.
7. Minimize upholstered furniture in bedrooms. Minimize clutter.  Clean and dust weekly and use a mask.
8. Keep children's soft toys in a closet.  Give washable puffalump type rather than furry varieties which are tougher to send through a washing machine.
9. Use miniblinds and valence type curtains.  Buy washable curtains rather than those which are dry clean only.
10. You can have plants in your home, but keep them out of bedrooms. Allergists indicate that houseplants increase the mold levels to unacceptable levels within bedrooms.
11. Again, find places for your pets OUTSIDE bedrooms. 

Following all of these suggestions is the best way to keep your anti-asthma strategies as natural as possible. When our children were young and had asthma, I was eventually able to discontinue ALL of their preventive asthma medicines over time, by doing EVERYTHING on these lists.  Of course, as asthmatic kids, we had about an annual virus which unmasked asthma, but using a nebulizer with meds once a year for them was much easier than battling asthma year round.

     Now that they are grown, and one of them has her own asthma-proofed home,  I have let things like cats sneak into our home, and it is no longer quite as asthma proofed as it once was, and this is one of my own problems.    I am therefore still working on some of these myself.

I have one of these running in my bedroom whenever I am there.  This air filter was relatively inexpensive, and so are its filters.

Please see my prior post in this series regarding asthma at:

Read more about it at:


Matt said...

Thanks. Great post. I didn't know about the fabric softener sheets.

I'll tell you this. A week ago Wednesday, I started a round of Prednisone (sp?) for a sinus infection, swelling and slight chest tightness. The next day, we took off on a long weekend vacation. We got back this past Monday around 6pm.

Once all the meds had kicked in, and being gone, I did fine. By 10pm in my home on Monday, my sinuses were burning. The air quality in my house sucks.

Today, I have a sinus induced migraine, things got that bad in just a few days.

As soon as the air warms up, I'll be opening windows trying to air the place out.

JaneofVirginia said...

Glad you had a good trip. I know that since we have a cat, the house must be absolutely immaculate in order for my asthma to be controlled. I was prepared to do all that for the kids, but I am tired of spending all this time looking like a home for sale ! I can't stay on oral steroids !

Leora Yang said...

My niece was recently diagnosed with asthma, and it hurts to see that she has to go through that ordeal. I know how much she loves her teddy bear. But because of her condition, we have to take her little friend away from her. That's why I am truly thankful that I bumped into your blog and read about the way she can still have her teddy. Also, your tips on how to asthma-proof the house is truly helpful. Thank you for imparting your knowledge with us! Leora Yang

JaneofVirginia said...

I am so glad this was helpful to you. We needed to do this with one of my sons also. Best wishes.