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Breathe Easy: Helping your toddler with asthma

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If your child has asthma, you're probably familiar with the tell-tale symptoms - wheezing, coughing, difficulty breathing. Asthma is surprisingly common in the U.S.; almost 10% of kids have been diagnosed with the condition. Fortunately, asthma can be easy to control. Paying attention to the common triggers, which can include many different environmental and lifestyle factors, is one surefire way to help manage your child's asthma. Here are a few things you can do:

  1. If you smoke, try to quit. If you can't quit, stop smoking in your home and car. Secondhand smoke is one of the biggest asthma triggers.
  2. Pay attention to your area's Air Quality Index (AQI). Low air quality can cause asthma attacks, so on low AQI days it's best to stay indoors as much as possible.
  3. Protect your home from dust mites. You can't get rid of these tiny pests entirely - they like to reside in our pillows and mattresses - but left unchecked, they are big triggers for asthma. The best way to control them is to encase your child's pillows and mattresses with allergen-impermeable covers, and be sure to wash all sheets and blankets in hot water at least once a week.
  4. Keep your home as dust free as possible; go over surfaces with a damp cloth, and vacuum rugs and fabric furniture often.
  5. Some children's asthma is brought on by pet dander. If you have a household pet, try to keep it outside as much as you can.
  6. Nobody wants cockroaches in their home - and here's yet another reason why: They are a leading asthma trigger in children. Keep roaches away by always tossing garbage, cleaning up food messes and spills right away, and storing food in tightly sealed containers.
  7. If you are trying to rid your home of an insect infestation, try to avoid using harsh pesticide sprays, which can also be harmful for kids with asthma. Instead, use non-chemical traps or natural baits. If you have to use pesticides, keep your child with asthma away from home and be sure to air it out for a few hours afterwards.
  8. Mold is yet another trigger. Keep mold at bay by keeping moisture away. Be sure to use an exhaust fan or open window when showering; fix leaky plumbing right away; replace moldy tiles and fixtures as soon as you can.
  9. Have a plan in place. Discuss your child's asthma and common triggers with your pediatrician or health care professional, and have them help you come up with an asthma management plan you can use at home and share with your child's other