Casey’s Parents Find Her Asthma Trigger
Two weeks into fourth grade, Casey had a severe asthma attack, sending her to the hospital. Two days after returning to school, Casey again started wheezing and coughing. Her symptoms became so unbearable that she missed both swimming and gymnastics lessons.
Casey’s parents kept her home from school and her asthma symptoms cleared up. Her mother met with the principal to express concerns that something in the school was triggering Casey’s asthma. With professional assistance, they inspected Casey’s classroom for mold, aerosols and chemicals – common asthma triggers – but none were found. Then Casey’s mom noticed several dead cockroaches in the corner of the art supplies closet.
School staff immediately cleaned the rest of the closet, finding a horde of cockroaches, cockroach feces and cast-off skins. Art supplies, including pasta and flour, were put into sealed containers. The entire classroom was cleaned and monitoring traps were laid out. Follow-up inspections in the room found no additional cockroaches.
A week later, Casey was healthy and back in swimming and gymnastics. Casey’s mom reported that she was breathing comfortably at school thanks to the removal of her asthma trigger. Kids like Casey deserve an environment where they can be the best student, athlete, musician, artist and most importantly, the happiest, healthiest child they can be.
Starting at Home
Asthma triggers can be found anywhere. Look in and around your home. What do you see? Dust? Cockroaches? Allergenic trees and plants? Pesticides? Maybe a pet cat? Anyone of those could be playing a role in triggering your child’s asthma.
Supporting Your Student
In a single school year, asthma accounts for more than 12.8 million missed school days, making it the leading cause of school absenteeism. Students with persistent symptoms and asthma related absences achieve lower test scores and overall academic achievement. By eliminating asthma triggers from your child’s environment, you are giving them a better chance to succeed in school.
Asthma in Children
Asthma is a health condition that causes inflammation of the lungs and airways. The inflammation and contraction of respiratory muscles cause a variety of symptoms.
Symptoms to look for:
- Difficulty breathing
- Wheezing during exhaling
- Dry coughing
- Feeling of tightness in the chest
- Itching neck, throat and ears
Serious symptoms requiring immediate medical attention include:
- Inability to speak
- Rapid heartbeat
- Blue lips, fingers and feet
Integrated Pest Management Combats Asthma
Integrated pest management (IPM) is common sense!
- Find pest problems early.
- Improve sanitation to reduce food, water, and clutter that attract pests.
- Pest-proof buildings to eliminate entry points and hiding places for pests.
- Use low-risk options when a pesticide is needed.
Most asthma symptoms are caused by environmental triggers including allergens and irritants. The more a child is exposed to a trigger the greater the risk for an asthma attack.
- Dust mites
- Cats, dogs and other pets
- Cleaning products
Why does IPM Alleviate Asthma Symptoms?
Some pests and certain pesticides can trigger asthma attacks in sensitive children. By using IPM to reduce common triggers, your child will live a healthier and happier life!
IPM is much more effective at managing pests compared with routine application of pesticides. Many pest problems can be completely avoided by excluding pests and correcting the conditions that attract and support pests. IPM reduces exposure to both pests and pesticides and has been shown to lower asthma six times more than conventional treatment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends IPM to address asthma.
How Can You Reduce Triggers in Your Home?
Follow these steps:
- Regularly clean counters, sinks, dishes, cabinets and floors to eliminate pest access to food.
- Eliminate sources of water including dripping faucets and leaking pipes.
- Store trash in containers with lids and empty regularly.
- Vacuum weekly using a HEPA filter, vacuum furniture, rugs, and drapes as well as carpets.
- Wash bed sheets, blankets and stuffed toys weekly and fully dry before returning to the bed.
- Place mite-proof covers on mattresses and pillows.
- Seal rodent entry ways under doors, around pipes and other openings.
- Keep all food in air tight containers and remove sources of water.
- Fix leaks to remove access to water.
- Set multiple snap traps in places where rodents are active. Keep them from children by placing them in locked rodent boxes. Check and reset traps daily until captures stop
- Mow the lawn two inches or shorter to eliminate grass pollination in the summer.
- Avoid planting highly allergenic plants around the house including ash, birch, hickory, oak, juniper, pecan, privet, willow trees and ornamental Ficus trees.
- Clean any signs of mold with hot soapy water.
- Remove any sources of water and fix leaking pipes.
- Use exhaust fans and open windows to dry out air in damp kitchens and bathrooms.
- Vacuum floors and furniture regularly, using a HEPA filtered vacuum.
- Keep pets outside when appropriate.
- If inside, keep pets off of furniture and out of bed rooms.
- Clean fish tanks to avoid mold growth.
- Use low-dust media and bedding in reptile and small animal enclosures.
Indoor air quality (IAQ)
- Avoid using aerosols and chemical sprays, including pesticides.
- Use microfiber cleaning tools to prevent allergens from becoming airborne.
- Plan for ventilation when painting and using construction materials.
- Use exhaust fans and exterior vents to reduce nitrogen dioxide from appliances such as gas and kerosene stoves.
Pesticides: A Trigger and a Cause
Sometimes pest control can include regular application of pesticides, whether pests are present or not. Evidence suggests that pesticides, like pests, can both cause and trigger asthma. Therefore it is prudent to use only what is really needed
What Pesticides are on Your Lawn?
Not all pesticides cause asthma or trigger attacks, but some over-the-counter products contain irritants known to trigger people with asthma. Of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, 27 are irritants, meaning they have the potential to trigger asthma symptoms.
Tips and Tools
Shop smart. Live smart.
Read pesticide labels. If you decide to purchase a pesticide, read the label to help you choose the safest product that works for the specific pest you want to control.
Store pesticides in a safe place. If pesticides are stored in the home, store them in a locked cabinet at least 4 feet up and out of reach of children.
NEVER buy unmarked pesticides. Only buy pesticides in marked containers that have an EPA registration number on the container. Other products are illegal and potentially very dangerous to your family.
What is the Air Quality Index?
Poor outdoor air quality can also trigger an asthma attack. To view the current air quality and pollen levels for your area, visit www.epa.gov/airnow or http://www.pollen.com.
Download a printer-friendly version of this publication: Reducing Your Child’s Asthma Using Integrated Pest Management: A Practical Guide for Parents around the Home
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