Health Watch -- Cleaning Indoor Air

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A cleaner home could be the key to helping children with asthma.

Children who live in inner cities are more likely than their suburban peers to suffer from asthma, mostly because of poor indoor air quality and exposure to tobacco smoke. Now researchers have found that cleaning up these children's living conditions can help them breathe easier.

Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas helped conduct this multi-site study in which they helped families of inner-city children with asthma reduce the levels of in-door allergens. In the two-year study, doctors helped families reduce levels of dust mites, mold, cockroach, cat, dog, rat and mold allergens, as well as reducing the exposure to tobacco smoke.

Dr. Rebecca Gruchalla, a UT Southwestern allergist who worked on the study, said some of the measures they taught families were very simple. For example, not leaving food uncovered and caulking cracks in the wall can help cut down on exposure to cockroaches. Other measures included enclosing mattresses and pillows in allergen-proof covers, removing carpet in bedrooms, repairing water leaks and using high-efficiency air filters.

Children living in these homes had fewer days of asthma symptoms than children whose homes hadn't been adjusted. Cleaning the home was as effective as medication for easing asthma symptoms, in some cases. Positive effects were still seen in a follow-up year when families were left on their own to continue the allergen-proofing.


Oct. 2004

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