1. Dust: Control dust with frequent cleaning
using a damp mop, rather than a broom, and replace furnace filters
with the change of season. Clean bedding in hot water and place
pillows, box springs and mattresses in dustproof cases.
2. Animals: Keep pets out of your bedroom and
bathe them weekly.
3. Pollen/grass: Try avoiding allergens by
remaining indoors on windy days. Use air conditioning instead of
opening the windows.
4. Fumes/paint: Keep clear of strong odors,
perfumes, colognes and scented products.
5. Exercise: Take prescribed medications before
exercising. Warm up slowly and limit exercise in inclement weather
or if you are ill.
6. Smoke: Do not smoke and do not allow others
to smoke in your house, car or garage.
7. Weather/air temperature: Use a scarf or mask
to cover your face in severe weather and limit outdoor activities
when the weather is very cold and dry or the humidity levels and
temperature are high.
8. Emotions: Laughing, crying, anger or
excitement change the way you breathe. Stay calm and practice deep
breathing to control emotional flare-ups.
Source: Advocate Lutheran General Hospital
Sondra Turner didn't know anything about asthma when she became
a foster mother six years ago to then 2-year-old Alexis. "She came
with her machine and all her meds," Turner says. Between doctor
visits, her own research and classes offered by her day care
center, Turner gradually learned to handle her daughter's
condition. What she didn't learn, however, was how to identify and
eliminate asthma triggers in her home.
Turner lives on the west side of Chicago in North Lawndale,
where about one in four children have asthma. That's almost double
the city and national rate.
North Lawndale's high pediatric asthma rate has led Sinai Urban
Health Institute to team up with housing, legal and other health
organizations to target the area with the Healthy Home, Healthy
Child program, which provides asthma management education and free
resources to families of children 2-14 who live and/or access
services in the area.
"Our hope with bringing in these partners is to help with
anything that may be taking the focus off that child's asthma,"
says DeShuna Dickens, a health educator supervisor for the program.
The Sinai health educators go into the homes of program
participants to identify and help eliminate household items that
may agitate children's asthma.
Starts with home visits
Educators visit families six times over the course of a year and
help them access services of program partners, such as The
Metropolitan Tenants Organization and Chicago Medical Legal
Partnership for Children, if there are larger issues preventing
care in the home for children with asthma.
Within the first two visits, the educator becomes acquainted
with the family and assesses the child's environment. During
Turner's second in-home visit, she received a green cleaning kit,
which included Bon Ami cleanser, Murphy Oil Soap, vinegar and
"I use it, but I like my Pine Sol scent," Turner says.
In addition to the nontoxic, eco-friendly cleaning products, she
has recently removed the carpet from the first floor of her home.
Alexis is not allergic to their dog, Cocoa, but the 8-year-old
makes the canine sleep at the end of her bed anyway now that she
has learned about triggers.
Common household asthma triggers include pets, cleaning
products, mold, rodents, cigarette smoke and dust mites. Smokers
who live at home with the child produce one of the greatest threats
for children with asthma. Secondhand smoke and even a smoker's
clothing can cause symptoms to flare up. Knowing this,
administrators of the Healthy Home, Healthy Child program have
planned to offer smoking cessation resources and counseling.
Dickens hopes parents "understand that it's also helping them to
think more about what's going on with the child." She adds that
parents may notice triggers like the weather, but "other things may
be going on in the home that you wouldn't even think about."
A trigger commonly missed by caretakers of children with asthma
is pesticides on groceries. Fruits and vegetables must be
thoroughly washed and stored at proper temperatures.
Reaching more families
About 45 families have signed up for the program so far. The
goal is to bring that number to 300 over the next three years.
Sinai Urban Health Institute, part of Sinai Health System, was
awarded $1.3 million from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention to conduct the three-year program in North Lawndale.
Turner has noticed an improvement in her daughter's condition
since she joined the program a few months ago. Alexis doesn't
wheeze as much as she used to and her eyes don't water as much,
Dickens is also enthusiastic about her progress: "Hopefully, by
the end of the program, Alexis will have been very much more
improved from where she started."
Taniesha Robinson is a former Chicago Parent intern.
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