Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department
Environmental Public Health
Indoor Air and Asthma
Overview of Asthma
Asthma is an inflammatory disorder of the airways, which causes attacks of wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing.
"Asthma attacks" can occur as an allergic reaction to the presence of an allergen, or other substance, in the ambient air. Asthma is the most
common chronic childhood disease. About one-tenth of the children in the United States have asthma, or will have at lease one asthma attack.
Serious asthma attacks can be frightening and dangerous, possibly resulting in the need for hospitalization.
Asthma may limit a child's ability to play, participate in sports, or be a part of other activities. If a parent has a history of asthma-related
problems, the chances are that their children will also have asthma. Both the number and the seriousness of asthma attacks have increased in
There is no known cure for asthma, although many asthma sufferers may experience an improvement in symptoms over time. With proper self-
management and medical treatment, most people with asthma can lead normal lives.
Symptoms of Asthma
The following symptoms are most commonly associated with asthma and asthma attacks:
- Cough with or without phlegm production
- Shortness of breath that gets worse with exercise or activity
- Pulling in of the skin between the ribs when breathing
- Abnormal breathing pattern --breathing out takes more than twice as long as breathing in
- Breathing temporarily stops
- Chest pain
- Nasal flaring
- Tighness in the chest
- Usually begins suddenly
- Comes in episodes
- May go away on its own
- May be worse at night or in early morning
- Gets worse when breathing in cold air
- Gets worse with exercise
- Gets better when using drugs that open the airways
Symptoms that may warrant emergency care are as follows:
- Bluish color to the lips and face
- Decreased level of alertness such as severe drowsiness or confusion, during an asthma attack
- Extreme difficulty breathing
- Rapid pulse
- Severe anxiety due to shortness of breath
Causes of Asthma
Asthma is caused by inflammation in the airways. When an asthma attack occurs, the muscles surrounding the airways become tight and the lining
of the air passages swell. This reduces the amount of air that can pass by, and can lead to wheezing sounds.
Pollutants and allergens in the home can trigger asthma attacks. Even in very clean homes, certain things in the air can cause a child, or an
adult, to have an asthma attack. Some of these triggers are obvious, but others are not often associated with asthma. These asthma triggers
- Pollen and dust
- Cockroaches and cockroach debris
- Dust mites
- Pet dander
- Some drugs
- Paint fumes
- Some pesticides
- Certain foods
- Some cleaning chemicals
- Environmental tobacco smoke (secondhand smoke)
Not everyone will react to the same cause in the same way. Some things will cause an asthma attack in one person but not in another. In addition,
other events can cause asthma attacks. These events include emotional stresses or sudden changes in humidity or temperature.
Reducing Your Risk for Asthma-Related Problems
While you probably will not be able to completely end asthma attacks, you can do things to reduce how often they occur and how serious they are.
- Don't smoke indoors or in vehicles
- Check the LLCHD Air Quality Index page, and limit outdoor activities on days with poor air quality
- Check the local pollen and mold report, and keep your child indoors on days when allergens are high
- Have all gas appliances checked to ensure they are working properly, including furnaces, water heaters, and gas stoves
- Change the filters on furnaces regularly (for example, every month) and use high efficiency filters
- Use the exhaust fan when cooking on a gas stove, and NEVER use a gas stove to heat the home
- Control household humidity, and try to maintain a humidity level between 30% and 50%
- Vent dryers to the outside
- Keep the house clean
- Use a high efficiency vacuum filter
- Get rid of cockroaches
Eliminating tobacco smoke from the home is the single most important thing a family can do to help a child with asthma. Smoking outdoors is
preferred, but it is important to note that family members and visitors who smoke can carry smoke residue in and on their clothes and hair,
possibly triggering asthma symptoms.
Asthma attacks can be reduced if you keep the air
in your house clean.
Your children's health is in your hands.
For more information call: (402) 441-8040