Most people recognize wheezing as a possible sign of childhood asthma, but there are other signs that may not be so obvious.
According to the American Lung Association, common symptoms include wheezing, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, chest tightness, frequent coughing, and frequent respiratory infections.
A persistent nighttime cough is a common sign of asthma, as asthma usually gets worse at night. Any child with recurrent coughing or respiratory infections should be evaluated for asthma.
While some cases of childhood asthma may be caused by viral infections, the majority of cases are caused by allergic inflammation. The house dust mite is a major cause of childhood asthma.
Last month, BBC News reported that some experts think that dust mites are behind the pandemic of childhood asthma in Scotland. (A third of 13-14-year-olds in Scotland suffer from asthma.)
Dr. Stirling Howieson of Strathclyde University Centre for Environmental Design and Research points out, “We have built in the last 30 years buildings that are much warmer, much tighter, and for that reason the indoor air quality is poorer and the relative humidity – the amount of moisture in the dwellings, is higher.”
We face the same problem in the United States. As homes became more energy efficient, indoor air quality got worse and allergens multiplied.
To keep the dust mite population in your home at a minimum, you must monitor your relative humidity. Keep it between 40 and 50 percent to prevent the growth of dust mites as well as mold. Dehumidifiers lower humidity by removing excess moisture from the air.
Dust mite bedding is another way to keep dust mite allergen levels low. As a warm, moist environment with plenty of mite food (human skin cells), a bed can house millions of dust mites. (That’s one reason why asthma often gets worse at night!) Dust mite bedding zips around mattresses and pillows to form a barrier that dust mites cannot pass. Once they’re cut off from their food supply, the mites will begin to die off. You should also wash all bedding at least once a week in hot water to kill dust mites.
See Dust Mites 101 to learn more.