According to Asthma UK, there are 5.4 million people living with asthma in the UK, 1.1 million of whom are children. That adds up to 1 in every 11 children, meaning that on average there are three with asthma in every classroom in the country.
At first glance, asthma might not seem like the worst health condition to live with, but the reality can be scary. For adults and children coping with severe asthma, living a normal life can be a daily struggle.
The good news is that asthma medications and the techniques for managing the condition effectively are constantly improving. Recent research from the American Academy of Pediatrics also looks set to make a significant contribution to the health of asthmatic children and adults.
According to the experts, the indoor environment of asthma sufferers’ homes plays a crucial role in respiratory health. In fact, controlling this environment could be as vital to asthma management as the use of medication. This discovery is particularly important for parents of asthmatic children, because air-borne pollutants can disrupt the development of young airways. Children are also more likely to be exposed to irritants and pollutants than adults because they spend more time on the floor.
Keeping your Home Safe
The new guidance recommends that parents with asthmatic children take the following precautions in their home:
- Reduce your child’s exposure to cigarette smoke
- Dust and clean regularly to avoid exposure to dust mites
- Address any mould or damp issues
- Address any issues with pests or vermin
Ultimately, the best thing you can do for your child is to keep your home very clean, dust-free and regularly vacuumed – particularly the rooms they spend the most time in.
Pets & Asthma
The report also discussed the role that family pets can play in children’s asthma. Animal dander is a common asthma trigger and it’s not always easy to control – even if you have a so-called "hypoallergenic" pet.
Giving up your dog or cat is not necessarily the only option if your child has asthma. This is because animal dander is only a problem if your child has an allergy to it – not all asthma sufferers are automatically allergic.
You’ll be able to tell if your child is allergic by monitoring their symptoms when they are around your pets. When the allergy is severe, a reaction will be instant, causing coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and sometimes even a rash. When the allergy is only mild, a reaction may take a few days to develop.
For children with only a mild allergy, it may be possible to keep pets as long as they are not allowed into bedrooms or communal living areas. Keeping your pets well groomed and clean is also important, as is regularly cleaning and vacuuming.
For children with a severe allergy, it’s worth getting a definitive allergy test before you consider giving up your pet. It may be that your child is allergic to something else in your home.
Other Management Techniques
Keeping your home clean and safe is very important when it comes to asthma management, but there are other important techniques to keep in mind.
The first is having a written asthma action plan. This is a document which details all the vital information related to your child’s condition. It will include a list of your child’s triggers, medications, and what to do in the event of an asthma attack. To establish a comprehensive asthma action plan for your child you will need to take some time monitoring their condition, and working out what their asthma triggers are.
It’s also crucial to make sure your child is using the correct asthma medication. If they are only using a blue reliever inhaler (usually Ventolin) but experiencing symptoms more than three times a week, then it is likely that will need a preventer inhaler.
However, frequent flare-ups of symptoms could also be a sign of an unidentified trigger in the home – whether it’s cigarette smoke, animal dander, dust mites, food additives or mould. In this situation, an allergy test is recommended.
You can read more about asthma and the various medications available to treat it at The Online Clinic. Click here to view our inhalers and learn more about asthma management.