Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition characterized by spasms in the bronchi of the lungs and inflammation in air passageways causing difficulty breathing that is often severe. Asthma attacks are often caused by allergic reactions and other forms of hypersensitivity. These attacks result in nearly 2 million emergency room visits annually. Thankfully, there are many factors and triggers in the home can be addressed to help prevent severe attacks.
Prevention is Key
There are medications available to help manage asthma. However, identifying and removing asthma triggers in the home environment can go a long way in preventing both minor and severe asthma flare-ups.
Here are some common asthma triggers and how to control them.
• Smoke. The inhalation of tobacco smoke can cause bronchial tubes to swell. This swelling can lead to an excess production of mucus causing coughing and phlegm. Prolonged exposure to cigarette and cigar smoke has the potential to create an irreversible constriction of the bronchial tubes as well as permanent scarring and breathing problems.
Wood smoke from wood stoves and open fires can also affect breathing. Areas that are affected by fire should be avoided if possible. Wood smoke contains harmful gases and small particulates that can be inhaled and cause lung irritation.
The best solution is to stay away from smoke. However, this isn’t always a practical solution. If you must be around someone who is smoking indoors, make sure the room is well-ventilated or has an air purifier with a charcoal-based activated carbon filter. These types of filters trap and hold the harmful chemicals and toxins that are released into the air by a burning cigarette.
Austin Air’s HealtMate Plus is one of the most effective air purifiers available. This model offers an extra layer of filtration against toxins as well as offensive smoke odors.
• Dust Mites Tiny, microscopic bugs that feed off shed skin, dust mites live in household dust. They also work their way into soft areas such as mattresses, carpets, furniture, pillows, and bedding. Thriving in humid conditions, dust mite populations peak in mid-summer.
Keeping dust mites under control is important since they can trigger severe asthma attacks. You should wash all bedding in water that is over 130 degrees, and then dry them on high heat. Airtight plastic dust mite covers on pillows, mattresses, and box springs will help as well. You should also regularly vacuum with a vacuum that is equipped with a HEPA filter since these filters will effectively trap dust mites.
• Pets 15 to 30 percent of Americans suffer from pet allergies. Pet dander, the dead skin cells shed from animals, as well as fur, saliva, and urine, are all common allergens. These can be transported on clothing, shoes, and other surfaces potentially entering a home that has never even had a pet.
Frequent handwashing, especially after petting an animal will help reduce the spread of allergens, Also, using a vacuum and an air filter with HEPA filters to effectively remove pet allergens from the home environment is recommended. Wiping down surfaces such as furniture and walls can be beneficial, too.
• Mold Airborne mold spores are found both indoors and out. Everyone breathes them in, but they can trigger asthma symptoms in some people.
If your home has a mold problem, the mold will have to be removed. In some severe cases, this may have to be done by professional mold removers. Once the mold has been removed, an air purifier, or a whole house air system with a HEPA filter, is recommended to remove any new or lingering airborne mold spores. This will help keep mold from spreading in your home.
Air Purifier Technology
A quality air purifier can help bring relief to an asthma sufferer. However, not all air purifiers are created equally.
• HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters were first developed to protect scientists working on World War II’s Manhattan Project. The filters were initially used to prevent the spread of dangerous radioactive particles. HEPA filters are also effective at capturing airborne particles such as bacteria, viruses, smoke, pollen, and mold spores. To be categorized as a true HEPA filter, the filter must be capable of trapping airborne particles as small as 0.3 microns at least 99.97 percent of the time.
• Some air purifiers create ozone, a known respiratory irritant. Asthma sufferers should especially avoid these.
• If your home has heating or air conditioning ducts, you may need a whole house air cleaner. Specially designed replacement filters for your HVAC units can significantly reduce the amount of dust in the coils of the system and keep them from recirculating into your home. These filters range in price from as little as one dollar to as much as twenty dollars apiece.
Simple inexpensive filters will need to be replaced often and may only remove large particles from the air you breathe, leaving behind the smaller asthma-triggering ones. More efficient replacement HVAC filters are usually pleated or electrostatically charged to remove those smaller, more irritating particles. These filters may be more expensive, but they are worth it when you consider how much more effective they are.
• A whole-house air cleaner can also be added directly to your HVAC unit. These can be quite pricy, often costing several thousand dollars to install. They also require frequent maintenance and can cause the unit to run almost continuously, causing a significant rise in your utility bills.
• An air purifier traps dust, pollen, and chemicals from the air in a room. They cannot, however, remove particles that have already settled on furniture, beds, carpets, and the many other surfaces of your home.
• Most room-sized air purifiers take up to 30 minutes to significantly reduce airborne particles. This may vary depending on the size of the room and the size of the unit. For the most effective removal of asthma triggers, you should run the air purifier continuously. For 24 hours every day of the week.
For those suffering from asthma and allergies, try Austin Air’s HealthMate model line. It comes in both standard HM400, which effectively cleans up to 1500 square feet, and junior HM200, which is perfect for smaller areas up to 700 square feet.
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