An 8-yeargirl has been coughing day and night when she got cold, making a wheezing sound while breathing. The winter season has been hot one day and cold the next, so much so that the girl has to visit the hospital frequently. The doctor diagnosed her condition as asthma. When the doctor found out that her father has a hard to break tobacco addiction, he told him the impacts of secondhand smoke. Now, her father start to quit smoking actively.
According to the World Health Organization, children with asthma are especially sensitive to second-hand smoke. They are more likely to develop asthmatic symptoms when exposed to second-hand smoke. Children who live with smokers are more likely to develop asthma, pneumonia, sinusitis and allergies; they are also 20%-30% more likely to develop lung cancer than others.
The World Asthma Day 2017 was observed across the world on May 2nd, 2017, with the theme 'Asthma: Better Air, Better Breathing' set by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA). In Taiwan, approximately 600 people die each year from asthma. According to the 2013 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) by the Health Promotion Administration, about 70% of patients under 10 years old are diagnosed of asthma. There are many risk factors for developing childhood asthma, the top five factors being dust mite (46.3%), rapid changes in temperature (37.7%), viral infections (36.8%), cold food (28.8%) and air pollution (24.2%). Dr. Yin-Wei Wang, the Director-General of Health Promotion Administration, Ministry of Health and Welfare, urges people to clean up the home environment and building good habits that help reduce exposure to asthma attacks or worsening asthma symptoms!
Household risk factors of asthma
Dust mite allergens in mattresses are positively linked to asthma and allergies. These mites are about 0.17-0.5 millimeters in size, and feed on the flakes of skin that people and pets shed daily. They thrive in warm and humid environments; dust mites thrive in temperature at around 25 degrees Celsius and humidity levels of 70 to 80 percent. Taiwan's environment is favorable for dust mite growth, especially in the end of spring and beginning of fall. During this time, dogs and cats are shedding and molting, which may accelerate the development of allergies. Many houses in Taiwan have rooms laid with tatami flooring, which is made from straws and also a source of allergens. Additionally, molds and cockroaches can also induce the symptoms of allergy.
Rapid changes in temperature and air quality index
The sudden change in temperature between indoor and outdoor and air pollutants (including total suspended particles and chemical irritants) will accelerate the clinical symptoms of asthmatic patients. Research shows a variation in temperatures between indoor and outdoor by 7 degrees Celsius is likely to induce asthma attacks and allergic reactions. In addition, pay close attention to the air quality index; when the orange light appears, the air quality might affect the health of those susceptible to allergy.
Some people with asthma may go for extended periods without having any symptoms. Sometimes, asthma attacks occur with respiratory infection, irritants in the air, allergies or climate change. The Health Promotion Administration provides the following tips to help the children and their family avoid asthma attacks. First, keep your home as clean as possible. Reducing dust in your house by limiting stuffed toys and carpets, and use blinds instead of heavy curtains. Second, use the dehumidifier, air conditioner and air purifier to maintain the temperature between 24-28 degrees Celsius, and the humidity levels at around 30 to 50 percent. At the same time, regularly cleaning/changing filters to ensure optimal filtration and prevent breeding of dust mites and mold. Third, avoid irritating odors by reducing the use of mosquito coils, burning incense, camphor and fragrances; use ventilation hood in the kitchen to reduce cooking smoke. Patients with asthma should carry with them masks, thin coats or scarfs (or silk scarfs) when going outside to avoid the effect of rapid temperature changes, especially when entering or exiting air-conditioned spaces. During the peak period of respiratory tract infection, avoid going to public spaces or crowded areas, such as department stores, movie theaters and amusement parks. In addition, smoking is the one of the causes of household (indoor) air pollution. The Health Promotion Administration urges smokers to consider quitting smoking to benefit your health and protect the people from avoid secondhand smoke.
【Taiwan Smokers’ Helpline 0800-63-63-63】
After diagnosis of asthma is confirmed, parents should help the kids adhere to physician evaluation, and to use the prescribed medication correctly by following the doctor’s orders; do not stop taking the medicine to avoid further complications.