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Kids With Asthma: The Quest for Quality Sleep

Kids With Asthma: The Quest for Quality Sleep

 

Everyone can think of a time when they didn’t get enough sleep – that heavy, groggy feeling lingers throughout the day, and that dragging usually indicates you’re not operating at your best. When children don’t get enough sleep, they also feel the effects, which usually make them cranky and difficult, and their performance at school could suffer. Of course, with the advent of technology, kids are arguably more sleep deprived than ever – but sleep deprivation can have natural causes, too. Kids who struggle with any breathing difficulty, whether it’s allergies or asthma, can lose precious hours of sleep in their quest to simply breathe.

 

Too little sleep can affect a child’s growth and immune system. Sleep-deprived kids can have a hard time waking up in the morning, feel tired throughout the day, and have trouble functioning, paying attention, and thinking clearly. Sleep allows the body to rest and recharge for the next day – and it’s also the time when children’s bodies grow the most.[1]

 

Each day we breathe in and out about 20,000 times.[2] Those 20,000 breaths can be quite difficult for a child with asthma, especially at night when attacks are more likely to occur. Asthma is a long-term, inflammatory lung disease that causes airways to tighten and narrow when a person with the condition comes into contact with irritants such as pollen, smoke, dust, or pet dander. Several things can play a part in causing asthma such as environmental factors, genetics, allergies, and respiratory infections, the most common trigger for asthmatic children under the age of five.

 

According to the CDC, nearly seven million children under the age of 18 have asthma, making it one of the leading, serious, chronic illnesses among children in the nation. It is the third-ranking cause of hospitalizations for children under the age of 15 and it’s the #1 reason that kids and teens chronically miss school.[3]

 

For parents of kids with breathing difficulties, establishing a relationship with their pediatrician is paramount. The doctor can recommend medication therapy as well suggest environmental changes the parent can make to ease the child’s symptoms. Certain factors – such as odors, pets, chemical sensitivities, and nutrition – can either ease or exacerbate the problem. Making sure the home environment is as clean and irritant-free as possible is also key in lessening symptoms.

 

Vacuuming often and with a machine equipped with a HEPA filter will help reduce the dust, dander and dirt that gets trapped in upholstery and carpet fibers. Additionally, using a high-quality air purifier can go even further in eliminating potential irritants from the home’s environment.

 

A child who is sleeping through the night – without coughing, struggling to breathe or dealing with a stuffy nose – is going to feel and perform better throughout their waking hours. And every kid deserves that.

 

 

Sources:

[1] http://www.helendevoschildrens.org/body.cfm?id=453&action=detail&ref=81790&cat_id=144

[2] http://woodtv.com/2015/03/04/when-asthma-affects-your-childs-sleep

[3] http://www.helendevoschildrens.org/

Battling Spring Allergies

Battling Spring Allergies

 

By now, most people are already feeling the effects of Spring and the oncoming allergy season. Pollen levels are already wreaking havoc on many Americans, and they are only expected to get higher.

 

You might know the symptoms well:  that throbbing headache, itchy, watery eyes and runny nose are all signs that your allergies are kicking in. Knowing what allergens you’re sensitive to can give you an advantage when dealing with an allergic reaction. If you know that you are allergic to certain tree pollens, you can prepare for combat ahead of time.

 

But don’t wait until your allergies have gotten the best of you! Being proactive — like taking over-the-counter antihistamines in advance to prevent symptoms before they begin — is a good first step. The sooner you can treat them the less intense the actual fallout may be.

 

About 50 million Americans have seasonal allergies according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. There are many ways to minimize occurrences of allergic reactions as well as prevent them altogether. Here are a few of our favorite allergy-busting tips!

 

  1. Know your allergy triggers to avoid them.
  2. Take antihistamines about a half hour prior to going outdoors.
  3. Limit time spent outdoors during peak hours and on days with high pollen counts.
  4. Avoid yard work, or wear gloves and a filter mask when gardening.
  5. Try not to touch your eyes after being exposed to allergens.
  6. Wash your hands and hair when coming in from outside and leave shoes at the door.
  7. Keep your home clean; wash throw rugs and change bed sheets often.
  8. Use an air conditioner, preferably with a HEPA filter.
  9. Invest in a sealed HEPA vacuum cleaner.
  10. Use a quality air purifier.

 

Practicing these allergy-fighting tips can help reduce the effects of the Spring allergy season. If your allergy medications don’t provide sufficient relief, consider speaking to an allergy specialist.

Is Particulate Matter Harming Your Health?

Is Particulate Matter Harming Your Health?

Pollution has long been connected to breathing difficulties, and considering the average adult breathes 3,000 gallons of air per day, that can be a huge problem. City dwellers often flee urban settings in favor of the “fresh air” of the country – and sometimes, with good reason. Those who suffer from respiratory complications can have an especially hard time with air quality in highly polluted areas.

 

It can be particularly harmful – not just to those with asthma and allergies, but children in particular. The American Academy of Pediatrics posits that children and infants are among the most vulnerable to air pollutants due to their higher levels of activity and higher minute ventilation.[1] But virtually everyone is affected by the presence and subsequent levels of particulate matter (PM) in the environment.

 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been raising concerns over particulate matter (also known as particle pollution) for years. Defined as “a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets,”[2] PM is made up of numerous components, including acids (such as nitrates and sulfates), organic chemicals, metals, and soil or dust particles. According to the EPA, the size of these particles is what causes the alarm, since the size of the PM directly correlates to the potential to cause health problems.[3]

 

As noted on their website, the “EPA is concerned about particles that are 10 micrometers in diameter or smaller because those are the particles that generally pass through the throat and nose and enter the lungs. Once inhaled, these particles can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health effects.”[4] They group PM into two main categories: inhalable coarse particles and fine particles.

 

Inhalable coarse particles, which are often found near roadways and industrial areas, are larger than 2.5 micrometers and smaller than 10 micrometers in diameter. Fine particles can be classified as what’s found in smoke and haze, and are easily inhaled deep into the lungs. Once there, they may accumulate, react, be cleared or absorbed. These kinds of PM measure 2.5 micrometers in diameter and smaller. The EPA states that they “can be directly emitted from sources such as forest fires, or they can form when gases emitted from power plants, industries and automobiles react in the air.”[5]

 

PM is a problem in most industrialized cities worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that “…fine particulate matter is associated with a broad spectrum of acute and chronic illness, such as lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cardiovascular diseases. Worldwide, it is estimated to cause about 16% of lung cancer deaths, 11% of COPD deaths, and more than 20% of ischemic heart disease and stroke.”[6] WHO goes on to point out that particulate matter is “an environmental health problem that affects people worldwide,” but that “low- and middle-income countries disproportionately experience this burden.”[7]

 

NASA phrases it this way: “In most cases, the most toxic pollution lingers for a few days or even weeks, bringing increases in respiratory and cardiac health problems at hospitals. Eventually the weather breaks, the air clears, and memories of foul air begin to fade. But that’s not to say that the health risks disappear as well. Even slightly elevated levels of air pollution can have a significant effect on human health. Over long periods and on a global scale, such impacts can add up.”[8]

 

The Health Department of New York has suggestions for anyone interested in lessening their exposure to PM. “When outdoor levels of PM2.5 are elevated, going indoors may reduce your exposure, although some outdoor particles will come indoors. If there are significant indoor sources of PM2.5, levels inside may not be lower than outside. Some ways to reduce exposure are to limit indoor and outdoor activities that produce fine particles (for example, burning candles indoors or open burning outdoors) and avoid strenuous activity in areas where fine particle levels are high.”[9]

 

While staying indoors can reduce exposure to PM, the EPA has also stated that indoor air is often more polluted than outdoor air.[10] Using a high-end air purifier while inside your home can help, and there are some on the market that can filter out PM up to 0.3 micron. This double approach to reducing PM in the air you breathe is be a smart idea, especially if you or those in your family suffer from breathing difficulties.

 

 

 

[1] www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2528642/

[2] www.epa.gov/pm/

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] www.who.int/gho/phe/outdoor_air_pollution/en/

[7] Ibid

[8] earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=82087

[9] www.health.ny.gov/environmental/indoors/air/pmq_a.htm

[10] www.epa.gov/region1/communities/indoorair.html