Between going to school all day and cold, dark evenings, kids spend much of the winter indoors, in close quarters with pets, bugs, germs and other asthma triggers. The arrival of the holiday season may often add mold, dust and smoke to the mix.
Lisa A. Jones RN, BSN, AE-C, an Asthma and EZ Breathing Program Coordinator at Akron Children’s Hospital, offered the following tips to reduce your child’s chances of an asthma attack.
- Christmas trees. Even if the tree doesn’t cause an issue, it may be coated with mold or pollen. Consider displaying an artificial tree. After the holidays, store it in a well-sealed bag to keep it dust-free.
- Decorations. Although you may have carefully stored your ornaments and wreaths, their containers could be coated in asthma triggers such as dust and pet droppings. Wash off the containers before bringing them upstairs, and clean the decorations before displaying them.
- Colds and flu. Respiratory infections are common during the cold winter months. Since these bugs are a common asthma trigger, keep your children away from anyone who is coughing or sneezing and wash their hands often. The flu vaccine is also recommended by pulmonologists and allergists who manage asthma.
- Pets. A puppy or kitten may sound like a charming gift, but they often come with dander – the tiny flecks of skin that they shed. Consider having your child tested for animal allergies before visiting the pet store.
- Smoke. The smoke from the fireplace, as well as stoves, exhaust systems and cigarettes can aggravate a child’s asthma symptoms.
- Cold temperatures. Sledding and building snow forts are fun winter activities for children, but cold, dry air can make asthma symptoms worse. Wrap a scarf around the bottom half of their faces, to help trap their warm, moist breath.
- Fragrances. Scented candles, gels, sprays and other products may contain organic compounds like formaldehyde, petroleum distillates, limonene, esters and alcohols that can trigger allergy symptoms, aggravate existing allergies and worsen asthma.
Your pediatrician’s office and the pharmacy you use may have erratic hours during the holidays. Before the holidays arrive, make sure you have all the medications and supplies you may need.