3 steps you can do right now to take control of your asthma
1 in 10 children are affected by asthma and the numbers are increasing everyday. From 2001 to 2009, 5 million additional people in the United States were affected by asthma.
One of the biggest problems with asthma right now is education, both for people that suffer with asthma and those that don’t. Many asthma sufferers are given basic instructions on controlling or preventing asthma flares like “avoid triggers” and “use inhalers in case of emergency”, but these sufferers aren’t really taught specific steps to control their symptoms. A study in 2008 found that only half of people that suffer from asthma reported being taught how to properly avoid triggers. Our goal with this blog is to help you learn how to actually avoid causes of asthma attacks and limit the amount that they affect you or your child’s health.
1) Actually understand what triggers your asthma
You’ve probably already heard of many of the ways to prevent or reduce your asthma triggers. For example, change your sheets, replace your air filters, clean out mold, etc. Asthma sufferers get told this so often that many times it falls on deaf ears and the specifics start to get tuned out. So maybe you start changing your air filters every 2 months rather than every 3, but is that enough? The first step is identifying what actually triggers your asthma so that you can attempt to avoid or limit exposure to these things.
Some of the more common triggers for asthma include irritants and allergens. Irritants include:
- Perfumes, colognes, scented lotions or soaps
- Cleaning products
- Tobacco smoke
- Vapor from e-cigarettes
- Smoke from other sources like burning wood or burnt food
Common allergen triggers include:
- Dust mites
- Animal dander such as cats or dogs
2) Create a defense against these triggers
Do you have pets? Do you have allergies or breathing conditions such as asthma? Since you made it this far, I’m going to consider this one a yes! Do you live in a dusty environment or has there been construction near your home? These are all things that can contribute to your allergies and asthma.
So, what can you do to help limit these triggers?
- Make sure that you are changing your air conditioner filters frequently. For people with allergies or asthma, it is generally recommend to change them every 3 to 4 weeks. The filter is what catches and traps the particles from the air before they can get to the vents and be blown back out into your home.
- Consider purchasing a HEPA Air Purifier. If you think of your air filter as a moat around castle, then an air purifier is the actual wall of the castle. It’s going to stop just about anything from coming in, but only in certain spots. These are wonderful to put in spots of your home where you spend the bulk of your time – living rooms, bedrooms, kitchen area. They’ll help to eliminate any pesky asthma triggers that slip by your air filter. According to the EPA, indoor air quality has become 2-5x worse than the outdoors. This occurs because our homes have become so air tight that any allergens we bring into our home have no way to get out. Go for a jog in the spring? You’ll be bringing in all the pollen once you walk in to your house. You can eliminate this as best you can by washing off and putting your clothes in the hamper, but the allergens particle won’t totally be out of the air. The air purifier will help to clean these things out of the air. When shopping for an air purifier you will need to know the approximate size of the area that you are wanting to use it in.
- Watch for water leaks and repair them ASAP to prevent mold.
- Keep the indoor humidity between 40 and 60%. If you live in an area of high humidity, consider purchasing a dehumidifier.
- Keep your home clean. Vacuum carpets (using a HEPA filter vacuum) at minimum once per week. Wash all bedding, stuffed animals, and curtains at least once per week in hot water- at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
- If you have pets in the home, do not allow them in the room of the person with asthma or allergies, and especially do not let them in the bed!
- Prevent pest problems, such as cockroaches, by cleaning up all food crumbs or drink spills, washing dishes, cleaning counters and storing food in air tight containers.
- Avoid irritants such as smoke, strong fragrances and odors, and cleaning products. If your child has asthma, try to clean when they are not home.
3) Build a tolerance to triggers
If you suffer from allergies in addition to your asthma, the most effective way to deal with these triggers is through immunotherapy. This is the process of desensitizing your immune system to your allergies by slowly exposing your body to the allergens that affect you. You probably know this form of treatment as allergy shots or allergy drops.
We recommend drops or shots to all of our asthmatic patients that also suffer from allergies. Allergies are a major trigger for asthma attacks, so building up a tolerance to your allergies is a very effective way of dealing with these triggers and reducing your asthma flares.
Keep up with process
Taking care of your asthma is a constant process and the quicker you are to form these habits the quicker you will feel better. Remember that asthma may affect your life in some ways, but that doesn’t mean that it has to control your life.