The number of asthma cases is still increasing, despite advances in
understanding of the condition and its successful treatment. Factors
which could have contributed to this include air pollution, greater use
of food preservatives, a more sedentary lifestyle and more time spent by
people in indoor areas.
Asthma is a chronic lung condition where attacks of narrowing and
swelling of the bronchial tubes leading to the lungs occur. The attacks
result in breathing difficulties, tightness of the chest, noisy
breathing and wheezing and coughing. They occur in response to various
triggers, such as moulds, dust mites, pollens, certain foods, chemical
additives and industrial products.
While asthma is more common in children, especially those below six
years old, anybody can get the disease at any age. Some children get
less frequent attacks when they grow older, although the attacks may
start again if there are factors that trigger them.
Although there is no cure for asthma, there are effective treatments
for keeping the condition under control. Medications for asthma can be
classified as controllers and quick relief medications. Controllers are
used daily on a long-term basis to help prevent future attacks or
asthma. Quick relief medications in the bronchial tubes and are used to
treat a sudden asthma attack.
Heat and humidity provide an ideal setting for the growth of mould
and mildew. They in turn serve as food for house dust mites. These
allergens, common in local homes, can trigger asthma attacks in people
who are allergic to them. People who are not allergic to them but have
asthma can have their condition worsened by these particles.
The effects of these asthma triggers is different for each person,
and may depend on how many triggers are present and how sensitive each
persons lungs are to them. Other triggers for asthma which may be found
in homes include insect parts, tobacco smoke, paint, detergents,
perfumes and household chemicals.
Mould is a parasitic, microscopic fungi which reproduces through
spores that float in the air like pollen. Mildew is caused by mould.
Dust mites live in pillows, mattresses, carpets, fabrics and soft
furnishings. They are tiny, blind arachnids (eight-legged creatures like
ticks and spiders) that live in dust.
There is currently no cure for asthma, and no single exact cause of
the disease has been pinpointed. However, in most cases, asthma starts
in early childhood, in toddlers from 2-6 years old. The cause of asthma
for this age group is often linked to exposure to allergens like moulds,
dust mites, tobacco smoke and viral respiratory infections. Hence, the
control and reduction of asthma triggers commonly found in our homes is
an important step in preventing the disease.
If there is a noticeable patch on the surface of clothes, upholstery
or even in the floor of a home, and this patch grows over a short period
of time, there is a high probability the surface is affected by mould.
The allergen can also grow on the dirty surface of most air conditioner
filters as well as on the cooling coil. The color of mould patches can
be green, while grey, black or other colors. Mould growth may also
result in foul odors.
Moulds produce millions of tiny spores and these get deposited in our
lungs when breathed in. Mould spores and fragments can produce allergic
reactions in sensitive persons, regardless of whether the spores are
alive or dead. All moulds can potentially affect our health. Other than
being an asthma trigger, moulds can also cause health hazards like skin
irritation, breathing difficulties, headaches, irritation of the eyes,
skin, nose and other areas, skin diseases and athlete's foot.
Allergic reactions to moulds are common in sensitive individuals.
This occurs when they inhale or touch mould spores, and the reaction can
be immediate or delayed. However, frequent, or even single exposure to
mould or mould spores can cause those who are not sensitive to develop
allergic reactions. If the exposure is more frequent, there is a greater
likelihood to become allergic to moulds. D
Dust mites thrive in the constant humidity and warm temperatures of
local homes. They infest beddings and other fabrics and soft
furnishings. Unlike mould spores, however, dust mites are found in large
particles that do not become airborne easily or stay airborne for long.