Environmental Factors Increase Risk of Asthma in Children

By Karen Cioffi

New research from the Université de Montréal, Canada, which looked at the living conditions of almost 1000 children diagnosed with asthma, reveals that environmental factors in the home have a significant influence on the severity of symptoms experienced by children with asthma. Heredity, environmental conditions, number and type of exposures and emotional factors can indicate a predisposition to allergies. The immune system normally overreacts to allergens by producing asthma symptoms.

When you have asthma, the airways that carry air into your lungs become sensitive to irritants like pollen, dust, or cold weather. Repeated exposure to irritants causes the airways to become swollen or inflamed. As this inflammation gets worse, the airways grow more sensitive and narrow so that getting air into and out of the lungs can be very difficult, sometimes even impossible.

The researchers found that the risk for poor asthma control in the children was increased by 35% as a result of living in areas of high traffic density. Traffic pollution contains a mixture of chemicals and particulate matter that can irritate the sensitive mucus membranes of the respiratory system and cause the airways to narrow.

The children living in basement bedrooms were able to control their asthma 30% less. Basements are commonly damp and contain mold, which is both an allergen and a source of toxic chemicals, which again can trigger asthma symptoms.

The results also showed a significant association between asthmatic children living in rented accommodations and the severity of their condition. Asthma control was better in children whose families owned their own home. This link could be the result of a number of factors including location of rental properties and general state of upkeep compared to resident-owned properties.

This study suggests asthmatic children are likely to do better if living in quieter neighborhoods with their bedrooms and main living space located above ground to reduce the risk of exposure to dampness and mold.

Simple measures such as keeping windows closed to prevent exposure to pollution and ventilating basements properly could substantially improve a child’s asthma. Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to maintain relative humidity below 50% and keep temperatures cool. Regular thorough cleaning of the home including the washing machine, refrigerator drip trays, garbage pails, and closets will reduce the number of asthma triggers.




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