Asthma & Allergy Information
What is Asthma?
Many people have an opinion on what asthma is, but in fact asthma is a disease of your airways, which are the narrow tubes that carry air into and out of your lungs. When people begin to show asthma symptoms, the muscles within their airways tighten and the lining of their airways expands and also produces a sticky mucus.
The result is that your airways become tighter and narrower and there is less room for the air to pass through to your lungs, which makes breathing more difficult.
Symptoms of Asthma
Symptoms of asthma can include the following:
- - A whistling sound or a wheezing noise as you breathe
- - You find yourself short of breath
- - An extra tightness in your chest
- - A cough - especially first thing in the morning or at night
These symptoms are just an example, and you do not have to suffer from all of these to be diagnosed with asthma.
What causes asthma symptoms?
If you have asthma, your airways are more sensitive than usual. So your airways are more likely to react to certain things in the environment (called triggers). Triggers can cause the airways to become narrow and inflamed, leading to asthma symptoms. Avoiding triggers, if possible, can help to control asthma.
What are the triggers of asthma?
Asthma can be triggered by many things, with some people being prone to some triggers that have absolutely no effect on other asthma sufferers.
The most common triggers include:
- - Dust mites - the most common trigger in Australia
- - Smoke – including cigarettes and also other smoke or pollution
- - Viral infections such as common cold or flu
- - Pollen
- - Hormones or stress
- - Exercise
- - Mould
- - Pets
Asthma triggered by exercise may be helped by medication and/or warm-up exercises.
How to manage asthma and allergies in your home
Reducing the number of triggers around your home can make a massive difference to people with asthma and also those who suffer from allergies. Reducing the exposure to allergen triggers can lead to greater control of your asthma and can reduce your need for asthma medication.
Choice of Flooring
If you are building a new home, or changing your flooring, you can choose carpets and underlay that are dust mite resistant and also easier to clean, or alternatively choose hard flooring.
Regular vacuuming will help keep the allergens in your house under control, and using a vacuum cleaner with a Powerbrush and a HEPA filter will produce a much better result. However, vacuuming does tend to increase the amount of dust in the air for up to 20 minutes, so it’s a good idea to get someone who doesn’t suffer from allergies or asthma to do the vacuuming and get those that do to avoid the area for a while. Steam mops are an easy and more importantly chemical-free way to of clean hard floors that can assist in minimising dust mite presence in the home. Godfreys have many cleaning machines which can help keep your home free of allergen-causing dust mites.
Wash your pillowcases and sheets in water hotter than 55°C, as this will kill any dust mites. If you can’t wash in hot water for any reason, use a product with essential oils which has been formulated to kill mites in cold water. Hot tumble drying clothes and bedding for 10 minutes will also kill dust mites. Airing bedding in the sunshine is helps to reduce dust mite counts. Dry cleaning will kill dust mites, but unfortunately not remove the allergens.
Choice of bedding
Select dust mite resistant bedding such as mattresses, pillows and quilts, and wash the covers regularly to help reduce asthma & allergy triggers.
Some dogs shed less than others and cats tend to be worse than dogs when it comes to asthma triggers. Wash hands after handling pets and keep them outside more often. If you can avoid having pets in the bedroom. Vacuum your home frequently and get someone who is not allergic to groom your pets. In extreme cases, it may be necessary to find a new home for your pet.
Climate control and cleaning
Dampness around the home can cause mould and mildew, and this can cause problems for asthma and allergy sufferers. Visible mould or mildew should be cleaned with a solution such as bleach which is intended to reduce mould. Clean your window coverings regularly and wash soft toys in water hotter than 55°C weekly. Freezing soft toys will kill dust mites, but unfortunately won’t remove allergens. A dry, well ventilated home that also has good insulation is recommended. Avoid evaporative air conditioners and gas heaters where possible. Indoor plants are not recommended as these can promote mould growth.
For more information on Asthma, please visit our section on the National Asthma Council of Australia.