Few experiences are more stressful for families than emergency room visits and hospitalizations for children. According to the Office of Minority Health:
- African Americans had asthma-related emergency room visits 4.5 times more often than Whites in 2004.
- Black children have a 260% higher emergency department visit rate, a 250% higher hospitalization rate, and a 500% higher death rate from asthma, as compared with White children.
LIKE BlackDoctor.org on Facebook! Get Your Daily Medicine…For LIFE! [ione_facebook_like_box url_segment=blackdoctor.org height=”260″]
Fortunately, while some hospitalizations are unavoidable, they can be minimized, and even sidestepped, with proper home care. Recent research suggests that there are many causes for asthma attacks, ranging from air pollution and roach droppings to immune system changes that result from the presence, or lack of, certain microbes (allergy-causing organisms that can’t be seen with the naked eye). The biggest problem, however, is that few parents realize just how toxic the home environment can be for young asthmatic children.
The Visiting Nurse Service of New York, the nation’s largest not-for-profit home health care organization, has developed in-depth expertise to provide the best care to New Yorkers in their homes, including those families with asthmatic children.
According to Sandra Eger-McTernan, RN, MSN, CPNP, a VNSNY pediatric nurse specialist, “While there are a number of different views on the causes of pediatric asthma, there are several surefire steps that parents can take at home to reduce the risk of hospitalizations.”
- Go green. The use of four or more household cleaners in one home can increase the incidence of asthma in adults and children. However, children breathe at a faster rate than adults, which puts them at greater risk for harm. Look for environmentally-friendly cleaning products with non-toxic ingredients.
- Beware of scents: Household air pollution that cause or worsen asthma in children can come for surprising sources, including incense, perfumes and air fresheners, fresh paint and new carpeting. As much as possible, children should be breathing fresh air at home. (Just because something smells good, doesn’t mean it isn’t polluting the air or isn’t potentially dangerous.)
- Air things out. Open the windows after cleaning your home with chemicals. Many people believe that the smell of bleach implies a clean home or nursery, but it can be harmful.
- Be smoke-free. Households with children should be “no smoking” zones. If you smoke cigarettes, make it your goal to quit and never allow guests to light up in your home.
- Make your home dust free. Damp mop often. Wipe down all surface areas, picture frames, bookshelves. Avoid collections of furry toys. Vacuum carpets often.
- Make your home fur free. Avoid keeping pets in the home. If you must have pet, keep it confined to areas other than your child’s bedroom and keep the bedroom door closed at all times.
- Keep food in the kitchen. Food should be stored and eaten in appropriate locations and not in your child’s bedroom or other rooms, and keep surfaces free of standing water as it can attract allergy-causing roaches.
- Turn on the AC. Use air conditioners when possible, but remember to clean out air filters every year. Avoid humidifiers as they can be a breeding ground for unhealthy molds. When using fans, clean the blades and ensure the area is dust free prior to use.
- Spread the word. Ask those who care for your children, like babysitters or relatives, to take the above precautions in their own homes, if your child spends more than several days a week there.
- Get vaccinated. Children who have had 12 or more severe respiratory (lung) infections in the first few years of life are at a significantly increased risk of asthma. To reduce the risk of lung infections, asthmatic children should get the flu shot every year.
- Wash up. Frequent hand washing by both parents and children can lessen the risk of childhood lung infections. Make an effort to teach your kids this healthy habit as early as possible.
Visit the BlackDoctor.org Home Health center for more helpful articles and tips.
MochaManual.com is an award-wining online destination for African American parents. From pregnancy to parenting, and from tots to teens, MochaManual is your everything guide for life. Founded by Kimberly Seals Allers, author of The Mocha Manual™ series of books and former senior editor at Essence, the MochaManual brand has been featured on Good Morning America, Anderson Cooper, Essence, Ebony and in international media. Join the conversation on Twitter @MochaManual and Facebook. Follow Kimberly @iamKSealsAllers.