This is a great post I found today at “Everyday health” by
Roughly 25 million people in America face the challenge of living with asthma — as do those who love them. Family members worry, feel stressed, and have many questions. But people living with asthmatics can do a number of things to make life easier, both for them and their loved ones.
- Be familiar with their asthma action plan. An asthma action plan is a written outline that details for you and the person with asthma how to take medications and what to do if certain symptoms appear or an attack seems imminent.
- Keep necessary medications on-hand. “If there is any one drug that most asthmatics should have on board, it would probably be the albuterol inhaler,” says Richard Castriotta, MD, associate director of the division of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at the University of Texas Houston Medical School. The majority of asthmatics can get quick relief from these “rescue” inhalers, he adds.
- Assist asthmatic children with monitoring their asthma control. Having your child blow into a device called a peak flow meter at home can be helpful. Peak flow meters measure how well your asthmatic child is breathing compared to their normal breathing.
- Control pets. Cat dander is a common trigger for asthma, but dogs can also bring on an asthma attack. Keeping pets out of your house or limiting where they can go in the house, especially in bedrooms, may help. Houston-resident Melissa McDonald, who is strongly allergic to cats, says,” I am mildly allergic to dogs, so I try to keep my dogs outside more. They still come inside to sleep at night, but I put them in one room. And I sleep somewhere else.”
- Identify environmental triggers. Every person with asthma has different “triggers” — those substances in their environment that can cause asthma symptoms to get worse or bring on an asthma attack. Some of the most common are dust, pet dander (tiny flakes from a pet’s skin), mold, tobacco smoke, and air pollution. Certain foods may trigger asthma in some people as well.
- Keep your indoor environment clean.Although it is difficult to control all the possible asthma triggers, establishing clean indoor surroundings can help. Here are some tips:
- Remove carpets and use tile, wood, or laminate flooring if possible. These are easier to keep dust-free.
- Mop and vacuum once or twice a week (the person with asthma should wear a mask if they are nearby). Double bag when emptying vacuum cleaner bags, and use a vacuum with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter. HEPA room filters may also help keep the air clean. “My husband does the vacuuming for me because it really triggers my allergies,” says McDonald.
- Change filters, such as those in furnaces and HEPA machines, on a regular schedule. Another tip from McDonald: Schedule an annual duct cleaning, which can often be performed by the people who steam clean carpets.
- Practice good pest control if you have roaches or rodents.
- Wash bedding and stuffed toys in hot water (over 130 degrees F.) every week.
- Use dust-mite covers on mattresses and pillows to prevent them from getting into pillows or mattresses. Dust-mites are tiny insects, invisible to the naked eye, that are present in dust, and commonly cause symptoms in a child with asthma to get worse.
- Address leaks and water spills immediately, before mold can form in moist areas.
- Do not allow smoking in your home.
- Help them maintain a healthy weight. Obesity has been tied to asthma symptoms and to an increased risk of hospitalization. There is also some evidence that asthma medications may not work as well for obese people. If you’re the head chef of the household, encourage healthy eating habits by preparing well-balanced meals.
- Take precautions when they exercise. Talk to your doctor about whether your asthmatic child or other family member with asthma should use an inhaler before exercising or participating in sports, and be careful when conditions are likely to trigger asthma, such as on cold, dry days.
- Avoid humidifiers or swamp coolers. If your loved one with asthma is sensitive to dust mites or mold, avoid introducing more moisture into the home environment. Indoor humidity should be between 30 and 50 percent.
- Cook at home. Know the foods that may trigger your loved one’s allergies and asthma and create a fun, tasty diet without those foods. Cooking at home instead of eating out or eating processed foods will give your more control over the food your family eats.
Caregivers who understand asthma triggers can take many positive steps to remove them from their loved one’s environment. These can make living with asthma much safer and easier for everyone.