Did you know that May is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month? Or, that on the third of this month World Asthma Day takes place? If not, that’s okay! In honor of this awareness month, we would like to discuss an issue that causes suffering for many asthmatics: air pollution. Yes, it’s true that air pollution is harmful to those without asthma. However, those with asthma are particularly at risk due to the nature of the respiratory condition. Keep reading to learn more about tackling and preventing indoor asthma triggers in your home.
What Is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease. Asthma causes the airways to narrow, swell and produce excessive mucus. This disease is characterized by a number of signs and symptoms including but not limited to:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
- Chest pain
- Difficulty sleeping as a result of shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing
Approximately 1 in 13 Americans suffer from asthma. For some it is mild, for others it is moderate or severe. It affects people of all ages. However, it typically begins during childhood. Unfortunately, asthma cannot be cured but the symptoms can be treated and minimized.
What Is World Asthma Day?
As aforementioned, May is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. And, during this month a special day is dedicated to asthma. May 3 is recognized as World Asthma Day. World Asthma Day is organized by the Global Initiative for Asthma, an organization founded in 1993. The first World Asthma Day was celebrated in 1998. Its purpose is to provide education and increase awareness.
This year’s theme is “Closing Gaps in Asthma Care.” What does that mean? As an example, asthma care disparities exist between wealthy and poor communities. In other words, individuals in more affluent areas are more likely to receive care. Unfortunately, there are a number of these gaps in asthma care including but not limited to:
- Unequal access to diagnosis and treatment
- Communication and education about disease management for people with asthma
- Knowledge and awareness among healthcare providers
How Does Air Pollution Affect Asthma?
Air pollutants worsen symptoms and can cause asthma attacks, which is why many pollutants are known as asthma triggers. In short, air pollutants are inflammatory and when inhaled they may cause an asthmatic’s airways to narrow or swell.
Given the fact that asthmatics already have difficulty breathing, air pollutants simply add to that difficulty. Examples of indoor and outdoor air pollutants that are also asthma triggers can be found below.
Indoor Air Triggers:
- Dust Mites
Outdoor Air Triggers:
- Particulate Matter
- Ground-Level Ozone
- Carbon Monoxide
Air Pollution and Childhood Asthma
Approximately 6 million children in the United States have asthma. Asthma is tough on children, there’s no doubt about it. And, exposure to air pollution makes it even more challenging to deal with this disease. Children exposed to air pollutants are more likely to have upper respiratory infections. Upper respiratory infections can worsen symptoms and trigger attacks. Also, as aforementioned, air pollutants are inflammatory and cause undue lung sensitivity which worsens asthma.
A 2017 study found that children were more likely to develop asthma and require serious treatment if exposed to coarse particulate matter outdoors. Another 2020 study found that traffic-related air pollution is a risk factor for asthma development in children. Additionally, second-hand smoking is a risk factor.
While this information may not come as a surprise, it’s important to conduct studies such as these that provide evidence that confirms the air pollution-health connection. For example, this evidence can influence future legislation that advocates for cleaner air. And events like World Asthma Day ensure that people around the world are aware of the facts that come from these studies.
How Can Indoor Air Quality Be Improved To Reduce Asthma Triggers?
There are many ways to ventilate your home for improved indoor air quality. Most homeowners choose the natural route which includes opening windows and doors to create a cross breeze. Remember, this is only beneficial if outdoor air quality is equal to or better than indoor air quality. Spot ventilation is another helpful solution which includes the use of range hoods, exhaust fans and the like. This method usually works best in a small area such as the bathroom.
Finally, there’s mechanical ventilation. Energy recovery ventilators and heat recovery ventilators are two mechanical ventilation systems that are energy-efficient and cost-effective. They provide more powerful and consistent fresh air ventilation which is beneficial for those with moderate or severe asthma.
An air filter is your first line of defense. That’s why it’s important to choose the right air filter. We recommend MERV 13 air filters because they capture 90% of larger particles and more than 70% of smaller particles. And, they do so without restricting airflow. By capturing dust, dander, pollen, mold spores and other air pollutants, you are less likely to experience negative symptoms associated with asthma. Overall indoor air quality is improved and you are able to breathe freely with this simple solution.
Active air purification makes it easier for your air filter to capture air pollutants. A process called bipolar ionization makes this possible. Positive and negative ions are emitted into the air and they work to track down air pollutants and make them stick together. When air pollutants are clumped together, they are larger and more easily caught. An air purifier is another great indoor air quality solution for those looking to reduce asthma triggers.
4. Source Control
When it comes to indoor air quality, the offense is just as important as the defense. In order to play an offensive role, you must find the sources of air pollution in your home and eliminate them to the best of your ability. For example, if your gas stove is a significant source, turn on the range hood, open windows and doors or invest in an electric stove. Taking steps to minimize exposure to asthma triggers in the first place is the ideal solution.
Making It Easier To Breathe
Asthma is a serious disease. And asthma triggers are virtually everywhere, making it difficult for people with asthma to control their symptoms. While it may be difficult to control outdoor air quality, indoor air quality can be easily improved with various solutions readily available to homeowners. Here at IAQ Works, we believe breathing clean air indoors should be effortless for everyone.