The following was originally published by
Hayden Manufacturing Co. Ltd.
Used with Permission
Asthma was always believed to be a hereditary disorder. Researchers now believe that
of the home environment.
If the development of allergies can be prevented in the first year of life, an infant's immune system will be given time to mature. Eighty-five percent of the three million Canadian children under the age of 18, who have asthma, have an allergic component to their illness. Two million of these children experience serious limitations, and combined, they miss 10 million school days each year.
HEREDITARY OR ENVIRONMENTAL?
Most infants born to parents with a history of an allergic disorder (including asthma) also go on to develop symptoms. If written in the genes is this condition inevitable ? Maybe not.
Experts believe that sensitivity to allergens and the symptoms of asthma in later childhood are directly related to allergen exposure in infancy. For example, children exposed to second hand smoke while in their mother's womb are more likely to develop asthma.
Researchers studied 120 prenatal infants, who were at high risk of developing one or more allergic disorders. When the babies were born researchers drew blood samples from the umbilical cords to check for high levels of IgE, an indicator of the potential to develop allergies.
Those babies who had both risk factors were then randomly divided into two groups. Parents of infants in the prevention group were instructed to treat the infant's bedroom and other living areas of their home to control house dust mites. They also treated these areas with a powder and foam every three months. The living environments of the other (control) group of infants were unrestricted.
Both groups of babies were monitored by a pediatrician at regular intervals. At the end of their first year of life, the babies were examined by a pediatric allergist who was completely unaware which group each was assigned to.
The results? At the end of the first year, the control group had an 40% incidence of overall allergic disorders compared with 13% for the prevention group.
Parents of infants who are at risk (that is, whose families have a history of asthma or other allergic disorders) should consider trying some preventative environmental measures.
"This is the first decent study that tried to see if asthma or eczema could be prevented by using environmental controls," says Gary Rachelefsky, M.D., director of the Allergy Research Foundation. "Viral illness has always been considered the most important triggering factor in episodes of infant asthma. But this study showed us something different. Avoidance of the allergens also resulted in fewer viral induced episodes of asthma. That's what makes this study very interesting."
Even the most immaculate home is a haven for biological pollutants, dust mites, insect parts, pet dander, fungi, molds and bacteria. These powerful allergens can trigger symptoms that are often ascribed to other health problems like colds, flu's and hayfever.
COMMON HOUSEHOLD ALLERGENS:
According to the National Publication of the Allergy/Asthma Information Association, five indoor allergens are common in even the most immaculate homes:
- HOUSE DUST MITES are very tiny and live in pillows, mattresses, bedding, carpets and upholstered furniture. It is chiefly their fecal material which is allergenic, causing wheezing attacks in asthmatics.
- COCKROACHES' fecal material and discarded skin has been discovered to be highly allergenic.
- ANIMALS such as cats, dogs and rodents have highly allergenic saliva and urine.
- MOLD is quite common in homes, but wet carpeting seems to be the biggest producer of mold.
- SMOKE from cigarettes or fires is not an allergen, but is extremely irritating for an allergic individual.
Allergens are usually thought of as being suspended in the air. However, the amount of allergens in the air is tiny compared to the amount in carpets and other fabrics in the home, such as bedding and upholstery.
The Environmental Protection Agency informs us that the worst air pollution in North America is found right inside our homes, apartment complexes, office buildings, hotels and even day-care centers.
YOUR CHILD'S FIRST YEAR:
To prevent allergies, begin with these steps in your child's first year of life:
- Wash all bedding in hot water. Allergen researchers have found that all mites are killed when bedding is washed at 131 degrees Fahrenheit or greater.
- Encase mattress and pillows in mite/allergen resistant dust covers.
- All baby furniture should have a wipeable surface that mite allergens can not adhere to.
- Choose allergen resistant washable teddy bears and stuffed toys.
- Avoid carpet shampooing. Soap residue from shampooing can produce an irritating dust, and the wetness can encourage mite growth and mold.
- Remove or treat carpets and upholstery with a mite spray, foam or powder.
- Choose vinyl covered baby bumpers as opposed to textured ones to protect and line your child's crib.
"As it (the infant's immune system) matures, the system will do a better job of defending the child's body against inhaled allergens, and the likelihood of becoming sensitive later in life may go down." says Robert Dockhorn, M.D., clinical professor of medicine and pediatrics at the University Missouri at Kansas City School of Medicine.
THE REST OF YOUR HOME:
To minimize allergens in other areas of the home:
- Install a central vacuum.
- To keep dust mites and molds from multiplying, keep your house temperature between 20 degrees and 21 degrees Centigrade and the humidity between 25-40%.
- Remove allergens such as animals from the house.
- If flooded, clean and dry water damaged carpets within 48 hours.
- Do not allow anyone to smoke in the house.
- Install wipeable blinds instead of curtains.
- Avoid textured wall hangings that mite allergens can adhere to.
- Remove dust collectors such as chalk boards, cork boards, pennants, mobiles, hanging plants and open shelves.
- Keep toys and books in a closed box, drawer or cabinet.
Dust mites are so small they are invisible to the naked eye. The average Canadian bed may play host to as many as two million dust mites.
(MACLEANS MAGAZINE: June 12 19103)
WHY A CENTRAL VACUUM?
"A central vacuum system avoids many problems by venting particles
out of doors"; according to Dr. Harold Nelson M.D., senior staff
physician at the National Jewish Center and one of 11 members of a
panel of experts that developed national guidelines for diagnosing and
"The problem with conventional vacuums and regular vacuum bags is that allergen particles pass right through and into the air. Vacuums swirl dust mite debris and animal dander right into the air where they are more likely to be breathed in than when sitting quietly on your carpet. Dust mite particles settle down in about 45 minutes, but animal dander stays in the air for long periods of time. Avoid water vacs, vacuums that filter dust into a canister of water are not recommended for either dander or mite debris. These vacuums can spew out a fine mist loaded with allergens."
THE GREAT INDOORS:
We spend so much time indoors that it is important to reduce the number of irritants in our homes.
Few people realize the air they breathe inside their homes may actually be more hazardous to their health than outside air.
You or your child may have lived in this environment for several years without problems. Do not let this fool you into thinking your home is problem free - - according to most allergists, breathing in airborne allergens is a cumulative problem.
Think of your immune system as a bucket filling up with allergens. The symptoms do not appear until your "bucket" is full. That is when you begin to have allergy symptoms like a stuffed-up nose or watering eyes.
Environmental control can help you avoid enough of these allergens so
that your bucket never reaches overflow levels. That is why it is the
solution most often recommended by allergists. Practicing simple
avoidance will help keep your home almost dust free.
Not only will you start each day with an "empty bucket", the clean air home will give your immune system a chance to recover.
A Team Hayden Publication
In our efforts to be more energy efficient we have sealed off our homes to the extent that dust mites, molds and mildew now accumulate at an alarming rate.
For more information please contact:
Hayden Manufactering Co. Ltd
11911 No. 5 Road,
Richmond, B.C. V7A4E9
Phone: 1-800-501-5018 Fax: (604)280-7315
Next Removing Allergens Article: 15 Steps for Reducing Asthma and Allergy Suffering
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