Asthma Triggers

Asthma Awareness Month

Asthma Awareness Month banner

Now that spring has arrived, it’s time to raise awareness about asthma!  Asthma is a serious, sometimes life threatening chronic respiratory disease that affects the lives of almost 25 million Americans, including an estimated 7 million kids.  The U.S. EPA is celebrating Asthma Awareness Month by spreading the word about how serious asthma can be and how important it is to manage environmental asthma triggers like secondhand smoke, dust mites, pet dander, mold and many others.  Please join the EPA in raising awareness of this condition by teaching others what asthma is and how the environment can affect people with asthma.

Although I have never suffered from asthma, I understand how it can affect someone’s day to day activities.  My childhood best friend, Katherine, suffers from asthma. My pet cats and dog would make it difficult for her to breathe when she would come over to play. With her inhaler in tow, Katherine was always aware of how pets could affect a play date with friends.

The EPA makes it easy for students to learn how to manage the environmental triggers of asthma.  You and a parent or guardian can visit http://www.epa.gov/asthma/ to learn more about asthma triggers and Asthma Awareness Month.  What is even cooler are all of the interesting materials the EPA offers to raise awareness about asthma.  Tell your parent or teacher they can visit the EPA’s website to get a free copy of Clearing the Air of Asthma Triggers.  You and your friends can also read Why is Coco Orange? to learn about asthma and air quality. During Asthma Awareness Month this May, help spread the word about asthma!

Shelby Egan is a student volunteer in the EPA’s Air and Radiation Division in Region 5, and is currently obtaining her Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She has a passion for protecting natural resources, cities she’s never been to and cooking any recipe by The Pioneer Woman.

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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Asthma Awareness Poster Contest

The U.S. EPA is celebrating Asthma Awareness month this May! Students in the 3rd-8th grades from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin are invited to participate in a poster contest.  Asthma is a serious, sometimes life threatening respiratory disease that can make it hard to breathe and affects the lives of over 25 million Americans.  Although there is no cure for asthma, there are ways to control its symptoms.  Help raise awareness about asthma by creating a poster that illustrates the different aspects about the condition.

Posters should help raise awareness about the positive aspects of asthma such as good asthma control and management, physical activity and asthma, asthma and the environment and asthma medication.  An example could be an illustration of how to avoid asthma triggers like mold, pet dander and secondhand smoke. Whether or not you suffer from asthma, this is a great way to inform other students about ways to manage asthma all the while having fun creating an artistic poster!  Please visit http://epa.gov/region5/asthmapostercontest to learn how to apply.  All entry forms and posters must be received by Friday May 10, 2013.

Shelby Egan is a student volunteer in the EPA’s Air and Radiation Division in Region 5, and is currently obtaining her Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She has a passion for protecting natural resources, cities she’s never been to and cooking any recipe by The Pioneer Woman.

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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Asthma Disparities: A Disproportionate Burden

By Alisa Smith

What disease do you think affects one in every five U.S. households, costs the U.S. $50 billion annually in medical expenses, accounts for 10.5 million missed school days every year, causes black children to be hospitalized at twice the rate of white children and to die at four times the rate of white children?

You’re probably thinking: whatever it is, let’s figure out a vaccine quickly.

It is asthma. Anyone can have asthma, but it impacts some more severely than others. Significant disparities, or differences, in asthma exist in racial and ethnic groups. Children from minority groups and children in low-income families are at greater risk for having the disease and once they have it, they are at greater risk of having it more severely.

While we don’t yet have a vaccine or know how to prevent someone from getting asthma, we do have a clear understanding of how to control it. It’s a balancing act: controlling exposure to the things indoors and outdoors that trigger asthma attacks and getting the right medicine and knowing how to take it.

Building awareness is one piece of the nation’s asthma control puzzle. EPA is working hard on many levels to help individuals and communities gain control of asthma. Our website has evidence-based resources that assist kidsparents, caregivers, older adults, child care programs, schools, healthcare providers, health insurers, and community groups.  Each year, over one million people visit our companion website NoAttacks.org to download easy to read information in English and Spanish.

Another piece of the asthma control puzzle focuses on closing the gap in disparities. Beginning over ten years ago, EPA saw effective work was being done in communities across the country to improve outcomes for kids most severely impacted by asthma. To help health practitioners and asthma programs share their best practices and top questions with one another, EPA launched AsthmaCommunityNetwork.org. This site contains the System for Delivering High-Quality Asthma Care and hundreds of effective print and multimedia resources from programs across the country. Each year EPA honors exceptional health plans, health care providers and communities in action with the National Environmental Leadership Award in Asthma Management as a way to celebrate the important contribution these programs are making to close the gap in asthma disparities. To hear from the 2012 Award winners about their best-in-class programs, register for EPA’s live webinar on Wednesday, May 30, 2012, from 1–2 p.m. EDT.

About the author: Alisa Smith, Ph.D., is Acting Director of the Center for Asthma and Schools in the Indoor Environments Division at the U.S. EPA.

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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A Summer with Asthma: Face the Challenge and Outsmart the Condition

By Molly Hooven

Summer heat is here, the air quality is diminishing and the asthma triggers are beginning to strike my family and possibly yours as well. Asthma can play a big role in your life but it’s important to remember that it should never slow you down.

I remember, as a young girl, when the ambulance came to my house and my uncle had to be given oxygen because he had a severe asthma attack. My uncle is my role model and he has asthma. What many people may not realize is that many of their role models have asthma too!
Did you know that Redskins player Chris Draft, first daughter Malia Obama and nearly 7 million children across the U.S. have asthma? You can still accomplish great things while managing asthma!

One of my greatest accomplishments is being able to manage my asthma and still play volleyball. On one hot July day I competed in an outdoor match when there was barely enough good air to breathe just standing on the sidelines. My competitive nature led me to overlook the Air Quality Index and soon the surrounding area started to blur.

Panic rose upon my face and tears began to spill as my throat was quickly closing and it felt like trying to breathe through a straw.
While I didn’t avoid the unhealthy air, which is a known asthma trigger, I did have a plan. Quickly I used my inhaler, sat in the shade, and rehydrated. People are going to have asthma attacks; the key is to have a plan!

Part of your plan should be to understand and recognize what your triggers are. Particulates (soot) and ozone (smog) are outdoor asthma triggers I faced in my game but there are also indoor triggers such as dust mites, molds, cockroaches and second hand smoke.

The main asthma trigger at my house is actually part of our family — our yellow lab. Since we can’t get rid of her pet dander, which is another asthma trigger, we take alternative actions such as not allowing her in bedrooms and brushing excess hair outside.

Those with and without an asthma condition need to understand potential triggers during the summer, develop a plan if faced with an attack, and realize that you’re not alone. If James Monk, Jerome Bettis, my uncle and I can succeed with an inhaler by our side—so can you!

About the author: Molly Hooven joined the EPA in November 2010 as a SCEP intern. She recently earned her M.B.A. from Mount St. Mary’s University and has an undergraduate degree in Communications.

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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Making a Difference: Conducting Environmental Interventions to Deliver Asthma Care

By Jan Roberts

Chances are you or someone you know has asthma. Whether it’s your child, parent or friend, this person helps make up the nearly 25 million people with asthma living in the U.S. This statistic is staggering, as asthma is one of the most controllable diseases. Our job at Genesee County Asthma Network is to turn around this figure by making healthy, environmental changes within our community. By making small changes in homes and schools, we can significantly improve our patients’ quality of life.

Those affected by asthma often use only 50 percent of their lung function because they don’t – or are unable to – eliminate the asthma triggers around them. To effectively deliver high-quality asthma care, we complete tailored environmental interventions in our patients’ homes and schools. We assess homes for asthma triggers while identifying potential financial or social barriers to fixing them. During these visits, we educate our patients about their medication, demonstrate safe cleaning methods, and help develop a personalized asthma action plan, which is tailored to the patients’ sensitivities, such as secondhand smoke or pet dander. For children in our program, we take it one step further and go into schools to educate their teachers, principals and maintenance staff (among others) on the basics of asthma and how it can affect student productivity and performance.

We know this hands-on approach works and produces dramatic results; among the patients we serve, emergency room visits have dropped by 45 percent and hospitalizations by 25 percent. By tracking medical records and administering questionnaires, we have also seen reductions in medication usage, decreased school absenteeism, and a general improved quality of life in both the children and adults we serve.
With limited resources and staff, our program continues to deliver comprehensive care by building partnerships within our community. We team with our local lead poisoning prevention program, Habitat for Humanity, the American Lung Association and others to share resources and holistically address asthma management.

If your program is interested in learning strategies on developing meaningful partnerships, I recommend attending EPA’s Communities in Action National Asthma Forum, June 9-10, 2011, in Washington, D.C. The Forum helped our program discover the power of collaboration and optimizing our resources, while delivering tailored environmental interventions that make a great impact.

About the author: Jan Roberts, RN, AE-C, has been with the Genesee County Asthma Network for 14 years and currently serves as the Asthma Disease Manager. The Genesee County Asthma Network is the recipient of EPA’s National Environmental Leadership Award in Asthma Management.

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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Why Is My Child Sick?

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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Pets and Asthma

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Lea la versión en español a continuación de esta entrada en inglés.
Some links exit EPA or have Spanish content. Exit EPA Disclaimer

During the month of May, Asthma Awareness Month, I’ve been working on several activities to increase awareness among Hispanics about asthma. This pulmonary disease affects about 22 million individuals across the United States. While this is a serious, sometimes life-threatening disease, it can be controlled so asthmatics can live a healthy life.

During interviews in Spanish-language media, I have discussed several tips to address environmental asthma triggers, in particular, how to reduce indoor asthma triggers such as second hand smoke, dust mites, mold, cockroaches and other pests, warm-blooded pets (like cats, dogs or hamsters), and nitrogen dioxide, as a way to control asthma attacks.

I know that trying to keep beloved pets away from the bedrooms and off the furniture can be sometimes easier said than done. Nonetheless, that’s essential if you want to keep the pet dander, saliva, and hair away from the sleeping areas, upholstery and carpets.

Short of giving your pet up for adoption (a necessary drastic measure if pet allergens are your key asthma trigger), there are some steps you can take to reduce the exposure to cat allergens. A friend shared an article recently which recommends soaking a washcloth or sponge with distilled water and wiping the cat down twice a week to minimize its dander. The article published last year in Health Monitor emphasized the importance of using distilled water while highlighting that its use was much more effective than other commercial products that make the claim to reduce pet allergens. In the perfect world, asthmatics should leave the cat grooming to someone else. However, if the allergic individual lives alone, a paper mask can be used to minimize inhaling the allergen. Furthermore, vacuuming frequently using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter is also highly recommended.

Needless to say, that working with your doctor to create an asthma plan that works for you is one of the first steps to managing this disease and living a fruitful life. Just wanted to share some advice for those who simply cannot say goodbye to their furry friend.

Las mascotas y el asma

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

Durante el mes de mayo, el Mes de Concienciación sobre el Asma, he estado trabajando en diferentes actividades para crear conciencia entre los hispanos acerca del asma. Esta enfermedad pulmonar afecta cerca de 22 millones de individuos en Estados Unidos. Mientras es una condición seria, y a veces puede ser mortal, si es controlada debidamente los asmáticos pueden vivir una vida saludable.

Durante varias entrevistas con medios hispanos, he mencionado varios consejos para abordar los desencadenantes ambientales del asma, en particular, cómo reducir los desencadenantes del asma en entornos interiores tales como el tabaquismo pasivo, los ácaros de polvo, el moho, las cucarachas, y otras plagas, los animales de sangre caliente (como gatos, perros o hámsters), y bióxido de nitrógeno, como una manera para controlar los ataques de asma.

Sé que el mantener a las queridas mascotas fuera de los dormitorios o lejos de los muebles puede resultar más fácil decirlo que hacerlo. No obstante, esto es esencial para asegurar que la caspa de los animales, la saliva o los pelos no tengan contacto con las áreas donde duerme, los muebles tapizados o las alfombras.

Mientras que en los casos más extremos es posible que tenga que dar su mascota en adopción (una medida drástica, pero necesaria si los alergenos de mascotas son el principal desencadenante de sus ataques de asma), hay algunos pasos que usted debe tomar para reducir la exposición a los alergenos de gatos. Una amiga me envió un artículo recientemente que recomienda el mojar un paño o esponja con agua destilada para limpiar a su gato dos veces en semana para minimizar la caspa. El artículo fue publicado el año pasado en Health Monitor.com. ] [El artículo enfatiza la importancia de utilizar agua destilada y destaca el hecho que su uso es mucho más efectivo que otros productos comerciales que alegan la reducción de los alergenos de las mascotas. En un mundo perfecto, los asmáticos deberían dejar que otra persona limpie su querido gato usando este método. Sin embargo, si la persona alérgica vive sola, entonces debe utilizar una máscara de papel limpiar la mascota y para minimizar el inhalar el alergeno. Además, el pasar la aspiradora frecuentemente utilizando un filtro HEPA también es altamente recomendado.

Demás está decir que el trabajar con su médico para crear un plan de asma que funcione para usted es uno de los primeros pasos a seguir para manejar esta enfermedad y vivir una vida fructífera. Sólo quería darle algunos consejos para aquellas personas que simplemente no pueden prescindir de sus queridas mascotas.

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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