It won’t be news to anyone that Australia and New Zealand have the highest rates of childhood asthma in the world. Up to a quarter of Aussie and Kiwi kids are being treated for asthma, and 70% of children in NZ visited their GP for some kind of respiratory condition in their first year. Eczema is also fairly common too – about 20% of children in both countries get the itch.
All those stats are interesting, but when you’re the one panicking because your toddler can’t breathe, or facing down a sleepless night because the baby Won’t. Stop. Scratching. you know how real the problem gets – and fast!
So, as parents, what can we do?
The first step is to keep your baby well away from known triggers:
It’s lucky these things are microscopic, because they’re everywhere, and none too attractive!
They’re also probably the cause of Australia’s high rate of asthma – they have lots of dust mites too, which are one of the most common global triggers of allergies. Australian homes have the highest rate of household dust mites in the world. That’s because it’s dust-mite heaven – hot, humid weather and poorly insulated homes. The picture’s pretty much the same in New Zealand.
So why are dust mites an issue? Many people are allergic to a protein found in the bugs’ microscopic waste. This triggers existing conditions like eczema and asthma, and could also be the cause of the condition in the first place. Evidence suggests that by keeping dust mites out of the house when your children are babies, you’ll reduce their chances of developing asthma.
What do to about dust mites
Dust mites feed on dead skin (yech), so they hang out where you do – pillows and bedding. So that means regular vacuuming and dusting, but most important is to choose bedding that helps keep dust mites at bay, and is easy to keep clean. Some sources recommend weekly hot-washing.
We all spend an average of 16 hours a day at home – and even more when aged under seven, which is why children are so at risk of respiratory conditions triggered by damp, mouldy homes. Research suggests that this kind of ongoing exposure to indoor dampness can reduce lung function and cause conditions like asthma. For kids who already have asthma and allergies, mould will trigger even more severe symptoms. So how do we make sure our mould sticks to blue cheese only?
What do to about mould
Dry it out, air it out! Mould thrives in the warm, dark and damp, which is why it’s so hard to keep under control in the bathroom. The best fixes are sunlight and airflow. Keep your curtains open during the day, and give your house a good air out every day, even in winter. Use your extractor fans, wipe down windows and avoid anything that will make your home damp – drying clothes inside, gas heaters, or boiling pots with the lids off. Good insulation can also keep moisture down and, if you can afford it, a home ventilation system will keep the air fresh and dry. Older homes may have mould in the walls – if you suspect this, it might be time for new Gib. Demolition party!
Smoke, Fragrance and fumes
This one’s pretty obvious – bad air is bad for lungs. So any smoke, chemical fumes and anything you spray from a can is a no-go. Fragrances in cleaners, air fresheners and bathroom products can trigger asthma too.
What do to about smoke, fragrance and fumes
The good news is that it’s easy to keep these triggers out of your home – look for fragrance-free products, use natural cleaning products like baking soda and vinegar, keep smoking outside, and say ‘no’ to air fresheners, scented candles, incense or perfumes. Some new furniture can also ‘off-gas’ – let triggering gasses off into the air – so look for furniture with as few chemicals as possible, then give them time to breath. If you can, leave them outside for a while before moving them indoors.
Pollen and pets
Lots of kids are allergic to both pollen and pet hair, which can trigger asthma or other conditions. During pollen season it can be hard to avoid, but there are some things you can do to minimise the sneezing, wheezing and itching.
What to do about pollen and pets
During pollen season, stay inside as much as possible, and keep windows shut during the day. But wait, what about airing the house out for mould? If you’re having mould and pollen issues, you’ll need to strike a balance. You can opt to use extractor fans or try opening windows in the afternoon, when pollen is at its lowest. Avoid line-drying your bedding, and make sure your littlies go to bed with freshly-washed hair. Pets can be kept outside, or out of your child’s bedroom at least. Just as with dust mites, regular vacuuming and washing of bedding is critical.
How the airnest Mattress System helps
The airnest Mattress is 100% washable – wash and tumble-dry the cover, and sluice down the core under the tap to get rid of allergen, mould or bacteria build-up.
The mattress is also 100% breathable, which keeps mould to a minimum, and reduces overheating, which can also trigger asthma.
The machine washable airnest Merino Mattress Protector goes on next. It breathes and wicks away moisture (which dust mites, mould and bacteria hate!)
The airnest Tencel sheets are also breathable, with smooth fibres to minimise skin irritation. Tencel can also be washed and dried quickly, and is made from fast-growing and sustainably-harvested eucalyptus tree fibres – no pesticides or synthetic solvents, which keeps VOC off-gassing down.
Want to know more about how to set up a trigger-free nursery? Click here to read more about the airnest Mattress System.