Asthma in infants is much more common than most people realize, and the frequency is rising. However, most infants are not born with asthma. It develops after birth, generally once the parents introduce them to their new home. There is a wide range of potential infant asthma causes. The most predominant one is mold.
The scariest aspect of mold is that it affects our breathing long before we ever see it or smell it. This explains why so many people can introduce their children to mold without realizing it. Many molds are common in the damp, dark, warm areas of our homes. It does not necessarily grow in large amounts, but large amounts aren’t necessary because it is not the mold itself that causes the allergic and asthmatic reactions but rather the mold spores that do.
Microscopic mold spores (or seeds) are present as soon as the mold starts to form. It doesn’t take much, and as soon as those particles become airborne, they can cause congestion, coughing, runny noses and wheezing. Since the airborne mold spores are so miniscule and the infant respiratory system is not yet efficient they easily evade the protective mechanisms of the respiratory system.
A study, published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, demonstrated that the risk of infants developing asthma more than doubled when there was mold present in the home. It is important to stress that there is no hard scientific evidence yet proving that mold causes asthma. However, there is significant evidence that mold spores can trigger the asthma in infants born with an inclination to it. In fact, the asthma risk in children increased substantially in cases where one of the parents is asthmatic and even more so in cases where they both are.
The research, which the study conducted as part of a larger project known as the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study, took place in Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio in 2001 to 2003. They monitored 176 children overall, and in all cases, at least one parent was allergic to at least one of the fifteen most common airborne allergens. They also tested all homes for mold (at least half had visible mold growth), and tested the kids at 1, 2, 3, 4 and 7 years of age. At the age of 7 years, children were evaluated for allergic sensitization and asthma. The risk was actually highest in children at age seven. Age seven is the point at which the lungs have fully formed.
In order to test for mold the study took dust samples from each home, and then performed DNA testing based on 36 different mold species using a standardized tool that the EPA developed. Doing it in this manner allowed the study to identify mold presence even in homes where one would normally deem that amount of mold insignificant. Based on these findings, researchers advised expectant parents and even families already with children to eliminate any situation that can lead to mold growth. The test also accounted for a wide range of other pollutants and contaminants.
Damp environments are not healthy environments, as Dr. James Sublett, an allergist and immunologist stated, so parents should ensure that their homes are properly sealed and well ventilated. Parents should at least keep relative humidity below sixty percent.
Perhaps the most important step the parent can take is to use a portable air purifier with HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filtration. The bottom line is that the only way to ensure that a child does not breathe mold spores is to ensure that there are no mold spores in the air. The best way to do that is through HEPA filtration, which traps 99.97% of airborne particulates down to 0.3 microns in size. The smallest mold spore is about 1 micron, so HEPA traps 100% of mold.
Important studies continue to recommend HEPA air purifiers for relief of asthma and allergy symptoms.
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