Asthma attacks are the leading cause of hospitalizations for children in New York City, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Why? Recent research suggests that there are many causes for asthma attacks, ranging from air pollution and roach droppings to immune system changes that result from the presence, or lack of, certain microbes (allergy-causing organisms that can’t be seen with the naked eye).
Fortunately, while some hospitalizations are unavoidable, they can be minimized, and even sidestepped, by following some simple tips:
- Go green. The use of four or more household cleaners in one home can increase the incidence of asthma in adults and children. However, children breathe at a faster rate than adults, which puts them at still greater risk for harm. Look for environmentally-friendly cleaning products with non-toxic ingredients.
- Beware of scents. Household air pollution that causes or worsens asthma in children can come for surprising sources, including incense, perfumes and air fresheners, fresh paint and new carpeting. As much as possible, children should be breathing fresh air at home. (Just because something smells good, doesn’t mean it can’t pollute the air or be potentially dangerous.)
- Air things out. Open the windows after cleaning your home with chemicals. Many people believe that the smell of bleach implies a clean home or nursery, but it can actually be harmful.
- Be smoke-free. Households with children should be “no smoking” zones. If you smoke cigarettes, make it your goal to quit and never allow guests to light up in your home.
- Make your home fur-free. Keep pets with fur or hair out of the home. If you must have a pet, keep it confined to areas other than your child’s bedroom and keep the bedroom door closed at all times.
- Keep food in the kitchen. Food should be stored and eaten in appropriate locations and not in your child’s bedroom or other rooms where it can attract allergy-causing roaches.
- Turn on the A/C. Use air conditioners when possible, but avoid humidifiers. Humidifiers can be a breeding ground for unhealthy molds.
- Spread the word. Ask those who care for your children, like babysitters or relatives, to take the above precautions in their own homes, if your child spends more than several weeks a year there.
- Get vaccinated. Children who have had 12 or more severe respiratory (lung) infections in the first few years of life are at a significantly increased risk of asthma. To reduce the risk of lung infections, asthmatic children should get the flu shot every year.
- Wash up. Frequent hand washing by both parents and children can lessen the risk of childhood lung infections. Make an effort to teach your kids this healthy habit as early as possible.