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Mitzi Parker: May is Asthma Awareness Month

Asthma is a serious, sometimes life-threatening chronic disease that affects close to 25 million Americans. Seven million of these individuals are children. There is no cure for asthma, but symptoms can be lessened and asthma attacks prevented by medication and reducing (or eliminating) exposure to asthma triggers. Asthma triggers are things that can cause asthma symptoms, an episode or attack or make asthma worse. These triggers are often found inside your home. They include cockroaches, dust mites, pollen, mold, and pet dander.
Americans spend up to 90 percent of their time indoors. Make your home a healthier environment for everyone, especially those suffering from asthma, by following these simple steps:
• Make your home a smoke-free environment.
• Eliminate clutter. Getting rid of it will reduce hiding places for pests as well as surfaces to collect dust.
• Clean regularly with low-VOC (volatile organic compound) products or green cleaning products.
• Keep cockroaches out of your house. Certain proteins are found in cockroach feces and saliva and can cause allergic reactions or trigger asthma symptoms in some individuals. To prevent pests, keep counters, sinks, tables and floors clean and free of open containers of food and water.
• Eliminate mold problems by keeping the indoor humidity below 50 percent and repairing leaks. Using exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom will help reduce moisture.
• Wash bedding in hot water every week. This will help to reduce dust mites. These tiny bugs cannot be seen, but they live in every home and can cause asthma to develop in children.
• Vacuum carpets and furniture every week to remove triggers such as pollen and dust mite feces. Use a HEPA vacuum (or a vacuum with a HEPA air filter). HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) vacuums and filters are capable of trapping extremely small, micron-sized particles. A true HEPA filter can trap 99.97 percent of all airborne particles larger than 0.3 microns. To illustrate how small this is, a human red blood cell is usually between 6 and 8 microns wide.
• Dust often with a damp cloth or microfiber cloth.
• Keep pets away from sleeping areas. Animal dander can be an asthma trigger.

May is Asthma Awareness Month. Take action today to clear your home of asthma triggers and everyone will breathe easier!

Mitzi Parker is Sumter County Extension agent/Family and Consumer Sciences, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service/Southwest District. Contact her at 229-924-4476.