HealthWise By Eliezer Nussbaum
December 17th, 2013 – Asthma is one of the most common chronic childhood disorders affecting an estimated 7.1 million children in the United States according to the American Lung Association. It’s a disease that’s the third leading cause of hospitalization among children under the age of 15.
Although there is no cure for asthma, we do know what common asthma attack triggers are and strive to educate young children and their families to learn and avoid their triggers.
Families are taught to take action in their home to protect their children from triggers like dust mites, mold, animal dander and strong odors, but parents can only do so much.
There are some triggers that can’t be avoided like changes in the weather and pollen in the air, but many common triggers are caused by our environment and the people and things in it.
One of the most common but avoidable triggers for asthmatics is second-hand smoke. When a person with asthma is exposed to second-hand smoke, they’re more likely to experience the wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath associated with asthma.
According to the American Lung Association’s annual State of the Air report, Los Angeles County is the most polluted city in the country based on the amount of smog that is in our air. That same report showed that nine out of 10 Californians live in areas with unhealthy air showing that it’s not only a local issue but a state-wide concern.
With an estimated 15 percent of the children in Long Beach living with asthma, it’s important as a city, and as a community, that we work to maintain the healthiest environment possible.
As a city there are many steps being taken to ensure that goal is reached. For example, the City of Long Beach Healthy Homes Demonstration Program is designed to control or eliminate household hazards to improve the health of children with asthma through outreach and education in the community.
A community coalition and Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach partner, the Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma (LBACA) works to improve the lives of children with asthma in Long Beach and the surrounding cities. LBACA offers education and outreach to the entire community including parents, the child, doctors, schools, after-school programs, child-care and anyone that spends time caring for a child with asthma. In addition, LBACA addresses outdoor air pollution and indoor environments through policy changes locally, regionally and statewide, and engages the community to become advocates for a clean environment.
Businesses are even doing their part to improve the air quality including the Port of Long Beach. Each year the port conducts a survey of its air emissions and tracks its progress so it can continue to improve air quality and reduce health risks to the surrounding communities.
In 2012, port-related emissions of diesel particulate matter, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides and greenhouse gases were reduced significantly compared to levels reported in 2005.
On a larger scale, the community is making great strides to improve the air quality, but it doesn’t need to stop there.
- Drive less – think about walking, riding your bike or carpooling
- Maintain your car – get regular checkups for emissions
- Don’t “top off” your gas tank Because ozone pollution needs sunlight to form, vapors that escape when you’re refueling your car will have less of chance to form if you fill your gas tank in the evening
- Use alternative fuel or vehicles, such as a hybrid or electric car
- Don’t leave your car running for extended periods of time
- Conserve energy – turn off appliances, lights, etc. when leaving a room
- If you have a family member or friend visiting, remove indoor asthma triggers from your home to help avoid an attack
- Use environmentally friendly cleaning products
- Quit smoking. It’s good for you and everyone around you
- Encourage your friends and family to adopt these strategies
Consider adopting a few of these strategies for clean air:
It’s surprising the impact making a few changes in your everyday life can have on the community as a whole. A cleaner environment can mean fewer hospitalizations for children with asthma, decreased absenteeism from school and a community where they can breathe easy.
(Eliezer Nussbaum, M.D., is the medical director of the Pulmonary, Allergy, Asthma and Cystic Fibrosis Center at Miller Children's Hospital Long Beach and a professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of California, Irvine.)