I hate the word asthma says, Liz Boden of Open Airways, Bermuda’s own asthma and allergy expert.
The Oxford English Dictionary says asthma is a disease of respiration, marked by intermittent paroxysms of difficulty breathing with a wheezing sound, cough and expectoration.
That sounds awful…I do wish they would mention that it’s treatable too and that no one need suffer with those awful symptoms.
One in five children in Bermuda has asthma — this is one of the highest rates of childhood asthma in the world (One in 10 children in the US has asthma). The first signs of asthma usually appear in childhood – about 45 per cent of all children will cough and wheeze and be prescribed an inhaler in the first few years of life. They do not all have asthma but they do have asthma symptoms simply because their airways are tiny.
How do we know which children will go on to have asthma? There is no simple test for young children and that is why your doctor may keep saying…let’s wait and see!
The children more likely to develop asthma include:
- Children with a family history of asthma and allergies.
- Children with other signs of sensitivity such as eczema.
- Children with food allergies.
- Children who cough and wheeze with colds and viruses and also in between in response to cigarette smoke, pets, cold air etc. (multiple trigger wheeze)
- Children exposed to cigarette smoke especially before birth and in the first few months of life while their tiny airways are developing.
Genetics is the main reason and not just the mold!
There are five groups of triggers:
- Allergens –like mold, dust-mites, cats, pollen etc. It is impossible to totally avoid all the allergens which may bother your sensitive airways.
- Irritants – household sprays, aerosols, cleaning products, fresh air sprays and plug-in air fresheners and perfume.
- Infection – colds and flu viruses.
- The weather
You can’t do much about the weather or emotions and there is no cure for the common cold!
You can avoid some allergens and you can stop using perfume, household sprays and chemicals.
In the home you can also provide some relief for those with Asthma and allergies.
Pets should not come into the bedroom and no one should ever smoke in the home.
Banish Mold and Mildew
Three ways to control mold in Bermuda — Ventilation — Ventilation —Ventilation — open windows in every room every day whatever possible. Use fans to keep air moving while you are at work.
To keep moisture levels in check and avoid mold buildup in other damp places like kitchens and baths.
Do this by cleaning and disinfecting all surfaces regularly and use bath exhaust fans to remove the water vapor that can settle and create a breeding ground for mold and mildew.
Also, launder kitchen and bath linens frequently, and be attentive to plumbing leaks that can lead to hidden mold issues.
Cut out carpet and stuffed animals For allergy sufferers, carpet is just about the worst choice for floor covering. Carpeting tends to trap and hold allergens of all kinds and is especially welcoming to dust mites. Wherever possible, replace carpet with wood or tile and use washable throw rugs. By doing so, you'll banish 90 percent of dust mites from a space!
Children with asthma should have no more than 3 stuffed animals in their bedroom and these should go in the freezer every week for 6 hours. If they are washed this should be in very hot water not cold…dust mites enjoy a wash in the washing machine and are still alive and kicking afterwards so freezing or boiling is the only way to kill them.
Clean the air
Those soothing springtime breezes also carry allergens, so if you are lucky enough to have some form of air-conditioning use it minimally — open windows to allow fresh air in and keep fans on to keep air moving. You can also prevent the development of other indoor allergens like mold by keeping home humidity as low as possible with the help of dehumidifiers. In Bermuda the cost of keeping air conditioning on all the time can be prohibitive so a good general clean of the house once a week and AC filter cleaning twice a year will keep your allergen levels down.
We recommend cleaning without chemicals using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter and microfiber cloths using water or liquid soap only.
Clean floors with steam cleaners – (inexpensive starting at $79 at Gorham’s) they use only water!
Choose dust-free décor Just like carpet, the presence of upholstered furnishings, fabric-heavy window treatments and ornate, dust-grabbing accents can all contribute to your allergy misery.
Instead of filling your home with those materials, select washable slipcovers and pillow shams, clean-lined décor and a clutter-free design.
Open Airways works in partnership with The Department of Health who employ the school asthma nurse, she runs the island wide asthma education. Open Airways established the programme and sponsors many of the initiatives like Pillows for Prevention. We have registries in every school and the school asthma nurse follows individual children who are missing too much time from school due to asthma and also the children who seem to cough and wheeze excessively at school and clearly do not have good control of their asthma.
Pillows for Prevention gives a new pillow to every child with asthma in Primary School. The idea is to set up a lifelong habit of replacing pillows every year as they harbour mold and allergens.
We want children playing outside — lungs need exercising. With good compliance with preventer inhalers children should be able to happily play outside.
The goal is control and little things make a big difference.
Michele Smith is the managing director and interior designer at OBMI Limited.