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Why Is My Child Sick?

2010 October 22

By Kara Belle

In 2002, we moved from Texas to Atlanta with my perfectly healthy 8-month old. Within a month, my daughter was in the hospital, face flush, lips blue, high fever and straining for every breath. The doctors would treat her, we would go home, and two to three weeks later we would be back to the emergency room for the same thing. It got so bad my daughter’s pediatrician requested that I remove my daughter from day care for six weeks so that her body would have time to heal and recover. My mom kept my daughter in her home during this time and miraculously she had no breathing problems, no fever, and looked great. I brought her home and within hours she was ill. This was my ah-ha moment. It was my apartment! Upon close inspection, I found mold underneath sinks and around windows in my apartment. I also recounted the numerous times her daycare would flood during heavy rains. In addition, we lived a stone’s throw from a major interstate. I later learned outdoor pollutants like emissions from cars, factories, and power plants can contribute to asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses.

My daughter was diagnosed with asthma but no one ever sent me home with tips on what environmental exposures may be triggering her asthma and respiratory infections. I can’t tell you how much I have learned since then. I bought books, searched the Internet, talked to other moms and found some really great information on asthma triggers and allergens both indoors and outdoors. I don’t want other parents or caregivers to go through an arduous and unnecessary learning curve as I did.

Most importantly, I’ve learned the importance of working with your child’s doctor to help create an Asthma Action Plan to prevent future asthma attacks. This is an essential preventative step toward managing asthma. Although, there is no cure for asthma yet, asthma can be controlled through medical treatment and management of environmental triggers. Had I known about the Asthma Action Plan earlier, my sweet baby girl would not have had to suffer needlessly as she did.

I always try to share my story with other parents who are becoming sadly aware of the asthma epidemic. Please join me and share your story. The more we talk about the importance of a healthy environment the better we can champion children’s health as parents, as a community, and as a nation.

About the author: Kara Belle works in the Office of Children’s Health Protection

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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14 Responses leave one →
  1. Nancy McGhee permalink
    October 22, 2010

    I know exactly what you are talking about. Until we all realize the dangers of our environment in just simply breathing, more and more cases of asthma will be diagnosed.

    Check all cleaning products you use in your home. They are the worst unless they are non-toxic and green! No Bleach especially!
    I only use Non-Toxic green in my home and I can even let my grandchildren help clean!!

  2. Julie Ferris permalink
    October 22, 2010

    As someone who works in a state air program, the issue of air pollution and public health is of high interest. The reference in this article to the “asthma epidemic” caught my attention. By following some EPA web links, I found some health statistics on children that indicated that from 2001 to 2008 the rate of asthma in children had increased “slightly”. It is hard to resolve this information. I would hope that EPA is working to provide information that can be used to address and manage problems (which this blog mostly does) but would also work to avoid unnecessary (and inaccurate?) alarm.

  3. fil permalink
    October 22, 2010

    There are products to help asthma relief. They are bronchodilators and experctorants

  4. Andre Kaminski permalink
    October 22, 2010

    CFL (like the bulb in your logo) need mercury to work.
    This is an oxymoron for an organization that claims to advocate “green awareness and better ways to protect our health”.
    Yet, you imply that mercury field bulbs are good for you.
    We do not need incandescent light bulbs or CFL or any fluorescent bulbs to enjoy any location that is in the dark.
    There are many healthier ways to illuminate unlit ares.

    Andre Kaminski

  5. armansyahardanis permalink
    October 23, 2010

    Like universes, human too. Electromagnetic wave makes all the things in the planets interdependence, as your child to connect with her environmental. We have not empty space as our error hypothesizes. All the times interconnected. Something wrong in these planets, and your child, silently, protestive and protective the environmental. It seems your child would be a great women, because you brave against the establishment. Your child like you, bravely….. Bravo !!!!

  6. Barbara Rubin permalink
    October 23, 2010


    So glad you were able to help your daughter early in her illness. What physicians won’t tell you is that asthma is a symptom, not a diagnosis! Usually, it represents an environment that is ‘ill’ or high in particulates stemming not just from allergenic sources but from chemicals such as fuels, cleaning solvents, pesticides, construction materials and new furnishings etc. Molds also carry fungi which emit gasses (mycotoxins) that act as chemicals in the system.

    I was disabled by pesticides applied in my own school program without my knowledge or permission. Pesticide regulations are inadequate and not enforced as I’ve discovered over a decade of study and actually measuring indoor air for residues where none belonged.

    Thank you for sharing your story and urge your child’s school to offer you complete disclosure of what is used there by staff and contracted services for that building such as pest control. Feel free to consult these items in my blog or write with questions.

    Barb Rubin

  7. Jeff permalink
    October 23, 2010

    It is obvious that we need a mold vaccine. Or an asthma vaccine. But we should be careful in case some things from the atmosphere that is causing her problem – mercury or fluoride – are not also in the vaccine or we could have a bad sensitization reaction on our hands.

  8. Jeff permalink
    October 23, 2010

    That would be a better business for funding – making a vaccine as opposed to trying to clean up the place – the apartment, house, air or water. The shot would be a lot easier – if it only worked.

  9. Jesús Torres Navarro permalink
    October 24, 2010

    Muchas gracias por compartir esta interesante historia, lamanto mucho lo de la pequeña, pero veo en este gesto la generocidad, pues es algo que todos debemos saber, para evitar que las niñas y los niños, como Usted dice tengan que pasar por este penoso aprendizaje; es un llamado a tiempo para prevenir
    Gracias de nuevo y felicidades por su solidaridad

  10. Consumer Reviews permalink
    October 24, 2010

    Sorry to hear of your mold experience. I had a similar experience when growing up. Later in life, my parents found a very small water leak and a ton of mold, behind one of the walls in my childhood bedroom. What a mess! Whenever considering a home, always have it checked for mold.
    Have a great (and mold free) day!

  11. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    October 24, 2010

    This shows how interdependent people are with the environment around them and how some human activities can have the unintended conequence of harming the environment and public health. Mold in homes and apartments especially older ones seems to be a big problem along with diesel particulates in the exhaust coming from major roads and freeways. We need engines that are alot less polluting and programs put in place by realters associations, homeowner associations, and apartment and condo management associations to attack head on the problem of mold in homes and apartments. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  12. Barbara Rubin permalink
    October 24, 2010

    Those are actually damaging in many cases of extrinsic asthma, opening the bronchi to material that the tissue is rejecting for it’s irritant status. With larger amounts of the irritants now able to enter the lungs, you wind up with inflammation and infection leading to antibiotic and steroid treatments allowing the cycle to repeat often. Many children are suffering from chronic illnesses because their environments need treatment, not their immune systems! Indoor air is more polluted than outdoor air in many cases and that should be in our control. EPA statistics indicate that in 2006, nearly ten million children had been diagnosed with asthma. It is the largest cause of missed school days and a quarter of lost work days in adults (some 38 million Americans in total have been diagnosed). This is an environmental tragedy and we have to do a better job of cleaning it up through conscious choices of products bought and used in our schools and businesses. Full disclosure of ingredients is lacking in the US which keeps us from this goal.

  13. terminsbrokers permalink
    October 25, 2010

    I had asthma as a child and can certainly relate to the story. Nothing scarier than an asthma attack!

    Virginia Life Insurance

  14. Wishful Thinker permalink
    October 25, 2010

    While it would be nice and convenient if there were a vaccine to protect us and our children from every possible source of infection, It’s not likely to happen quickly enough for the children who are being afflicted now. Also, as Jeff notes, new, high tech solutions can come with unanticipated negative side effects.
    Therefore, people need to devote more energy to the low tech solutions, such as better ventilation of our homes, preventing or fixing leaks, and simply killing the molds with bleach or other, safer, agents.
    Also, in this era of aerosol cans and squirt bottles, let’s not forget elbow grease.

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