An important government study shows that HEPA air purifiers paired with other preventive measures can significantly reduce children’s asthma symptoms. Asthma may be triggered by many things – foods, medicines, mold, pet dander, dust mites, or airborne pollution, among many others. Even though a HEPA air filter can’t remove all allergens and can’t guarantee 100% protection against an asthma attack, it can help reduce their frequency.
Asthma is a respiratory condition wherein swelling of the airways restricts airflow to the lungs. When children are exposed to an allergen to which they’re sensitive, it triggers an asthma attack. They experience difficult breathing, coughing, and chest tightness, even while at rest. Asthma is a leading cause of school absences and hospitalizations in children. It restricts the activities a child may take part in, affecting their physical and emotional health. Worldwide asthma cases are rising, a trend which has been linked to air pollution and other environmental factors. Though these do play a role, indoor air quality is equally as impactful on a child’s asthma. While people might have little control over outdoor air pollution, indoor air quality is under their control and can be improved.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases co-sponsored a study that researched children’s asthma symptoms. Over 900 children between the ages of 5 and 11 and from 7 major metropolitan areas took part in the study. Researchers devised a specialized program for each child; since every child has different triggers, this program was tailored to each child’s needs, addressing his or her individual sensitivity to indoor allergens. The program focused on educating the child’s family about ways to reduce exposure to the allergen and to improve indoor air quality. Families were given allergen-impermeable covers for bedding and portable HEPA air purifiers for different rooms, among other measures. The study lasted for a year, with another year of follow-up, during which time researchers monitored asthma symptoms and indoor allergen levels.
The results were significant. On average, children in the intervention group experienced 21 fewer days of symptoms during the study and 16 fewer in the follow-up year. This marked reduction in symptoms became evident within two months of the study’s start. Researchers also found that the drop in allergen levels was directly related to the drop in asthma symptoms; the further the allergens dropped, the fewer symptoms the children experienced. Dr. Kenneth Olden, director of NIEHS, noted the importance of the study’s results: “they show that changes made in the home environment can produce a reduction in symptoms comparable to that achieved with asthma inhalers.”
By taking measures to reduce allergens, families can directly reduce asthma symptoms in children. Families should use allergen-impermeable bed covers. They should keep food sealed, away from bedrooms, and they should seek the help of an exterminator to reduce cockroach allergens. Repairing leaks and ensuring low humidity levels in the home will reduce the growth of allergens like mold. Pets may need to be kept outdoors if children are sensitive to pet dander. Parents should also choose unscented or natural cleaning products. One of the most important steps to take is to eliminate tobacco smoke entirely. Secondhand smoke is deadly to asthmatic children . No one should smoke in homes of asthmatic children. Finally, families should get a portable HEPA air purifier to clean the air of allergens already present.
HEPA Air Purifiers
High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) purifiers are the most effective air purifiers at reducing airborne allergens. By definition, a HEPA filter will remove 99.97% of airborne particles that are 0.3 microns and larger. Originally used during the Manhattan Project to prevent the spread of airborne radioactive particles, today they are essential to stopping the spread of airborne bacteria and viruses. They’re readily available for home use; some even filter particles smaller than 0.3 microns. HEPA air filters, in combination with other measures, improve indoor air quality and ensure that children with asthma breathe healthy, clean air.
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