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Balanced Health and Fitness

Asthma and Indoor Air Quality

kids-playingIf you’ve got kids, you’ve got to understand the link between Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and the triggering effect it can have on childhood asthma.  Yet another scientific study, this one conducted by Johns Hopkins University and published in the February issue of the journal “Environmental Health Perspectives,” has confirmed that there’s an association between bad IAQ, primarily high levels of particulate matter or “PM,” and the severity of asthma symptoms in susceptible children.

I’ve written on the effects of particulate matter and IAQ before but it just keeps coming up (search this site for previous posts or see the Related Posts section below).  I guess one of the byproducts of our modern society is an increase in the “stuff” that we breathe in day after day.  Unfortunately, it’s hard on our kids, especially those suffering with childhood asthma.

Here are a couple of things you can do to reduce the effects of PM, and asthma, on your children.

First, if you suspect that your child has asthma, get them professionally diagnosed and treated.  There has been a documented increase in kids diagnosed with asthma over the past 20 years.  No one knows the cause, they just know it’s increasing.  As a parent, your best course of action is to be watchful for any signs that your child may be developing asthma and get them treatment as early as possible.

Second, if your child already suffers from asthma, make sure to follow your doctor’s advice.

Third, “know your enemy.”  Become knowledgeable about asthma by checking out the information at reliable medical sites such as The American Lung Association and the Mayo Clinic.

Fourth, take steps to improve the quality of the air inside your home by reducing the amount of particulate matter in the air.  It’s estimated that kids spend 80% of their time indoors so make sure you’ve done everything you can to assure that this time is spent in an area with good IAQ.  Some basic tips to reduce PM include:

  • Make sure that you purchase good quality air conditioning filters and that you change them frequently.  No, I don’t recommend having your air ducts cleaned since this can cause more problems than it solves.  Unless you literally have dust blowing out of your AC vents, having your air ducts cleaned is not necessary.
  • Reduce the amount of carpeted area in your home.  A carpet tends to trap particulate matter in the carpet fiber and then releases it back into the air when the carpet is walked on or disturbed.
  • No furry pets indoors.  “Fido” and “Fluffy” will just have to sleep outside.  Pet hair, and especially pet dander, are serious allergy and asthma triggers.
  • Purchase and use a good quality vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter on the exhaust.  A “HEPA” filter is a “High Efficiency Particulate Air” filter designed to trap and remove most of the particulate matter from the exhausted air.  Using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter will assure that any dust that’s picked up stays in the vacuum instead of being exhausted right back into the room.
  • Consider the purchase of a good quality air purifier for your child’s bedroom.  Make sure that you get a unit that does NOT create or release ozone, negative ions, aromatics, or anything else.
  • Keep doors and windows closed to prevent dust and particulate matter from coming indoors.
  • Be a careful consumer when it comes to all the “asthma preventing” attachments that are for sale for your air conditioning unit.  These include ultraviolet light (UV) attachments designed to “sterilize” the air flowing through your AC ducts to electrostatic filters that will “zap” the dust right out of the air.  These things do in fact work.  However, some of them are pretty expensive and most will only improve your overall IAQ fractionally.  You’ll have a much greater impact on the quality of your indoor by simply following the first four points (and you’ll save a bunch of money, too).

Asthma is the leading chronic illness of children in the US and is the third leading cause of child hospitalizations.  It cannot be cured but it can almost always be controlled by reducing your child’s exposure to those things that can trigger an attack.  Research is finding that particulate matter (PM), microscopic particles of dust, carbon, smoke, or soot, is one of the more significant.  The good news is that there are some simple, commonsense things you can do to protect your family from its effects.

Read the press release on the Johns Hopkins study here.

The Balanced Health Guy

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  1. To minimize exposure to particulates, avoid using wood burning fireplaces.
    Join the discussion at:

  2. Short comment but you bring up a good point. A lot of people don’t equate wood smoke with particulates but that’s exactly what it is. Smoke is made up of mostly carbon particles floating in the air.

    Obviously, there’s also a lot of chemicals and gases that are also given off as part of the burning process but the part of smoke that we can see is mostly carbon particulates.

    If you’ve got kids with asthma, it’s a good idea to keep them away from any smoke-producing items including household things such as fire places and outdoor grills as well as scented candles and the like.


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