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Spotlight on Asthma: March 2016


Air cleanerAsthma and Air Cleaners

The air we breathe contains particles and gases that may be harmful, especially to those with lung conditions such as asthma. It may seem to make sense that using an air cleaner would help to reduce asthma symptoms. However this may not be true. Read More

Close up of pollenEnvironmental Allergens in School Settings

The school environment can present many challenges to students, teachers, other personnel and parents/guardians. For children and youth with asthma or allergies, school is probably the most important environment apart from their home. Read More

Electronic cigaretteElectronic Cigarettes

Electronic cigarettes (also known as e-cigarettes) are battery-operated devices that mimic the use of conventional cigarettes. They produce vapour (also referred to as aerosol) instead of smoke. The act of using an e-cigarette is often referred to as “vaping”. Read More

The How to health guide coverThe How To Health Guide – 2016 Edition

The Public Policy Working Group of Health Charities Coalition of Canada has launched the revised How to Health Guide. The guide was developed to assist patients and caregivers in understanding the Canadian health-care system. Read More

 


 

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Asthma and Air Cleaners

We breathe in and out about 20,000 times a day. The air we breathe contains particles and gases that may be harmful, especially to those with lung conditions such as asthma. The cleaner the air, the better for your lungs. It may seem to make sense that using an air cleaner would help to reduce asthma symptoms. However this may not be true. So far there is no good research showing air cleaners will help your asthma. They can remove particles from the air, but so far there is no proof they can help your asthma.

Instead of trying to clean the air with an air cleaner, it is better to remove the things that cause your symptoms. Here are some examples of steps that can help:

  • Do not allow smoking in your home or car at any time.Air cleaner
  • If you are allergic to a pet, do not have one in your home.
  • If you are allergic to dust mites, encase your mattress and pillows in allergy-proof covers.
  • Replace carpet with hard flooring.
  • Improve ventilation in your home:
    • Air out the house to bring in fresh air.
    • Install a ventilation system (can be costly).

If you are going to buy an air cleaner, here are some tips:

  • Make sure you understand the limitations of an air cleaner
  • An air cleaner equipped with a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter is the most often recommended type of air cleaner.
  • An air cleaner does not do a good job of cleaning all the air in the whole home – place it in the bedroom with the doors and windows closed.
  • Make sure the air cleaner is large enough to move a lot of air through it.
  • Note that air cleaners make noise and may bother your sleep.
  • Keep in mind that companies that sell air cleaners are sales driven – beware their claims.

For more information about air cleaners, see our Portable Air Cleaners fact sheet.

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Environmental Allergens in School Settings

The school environment can present many challenges to students, teachers, other personnel and parents/guardians. For children and youth with asthma or allergies, school is probably the most important environment apart from their home. Exposures at school can lead to worsening asthma or allergies. Asthma is a leading cause of school absenteeism.

The most common allergens in the school environment are discussed below, including suggested avoidance strategies. Asthma and other allergy-related diseases (e.g., rhinitis, conjunctivitis, eczema) can be triggered by allergens both indoors and outdoors at school. Asthma and allergy management is improved when health-care providers, students, parents and school personnel work together to identify, eliminate and control triggers. Increased awareness and collaboration are positive steps toward creating asthma and allergy friendly schools.

Animal Allergens (Pets and Pests)

Allergens are found in the skin, saliva, feces, and urine of furry animals as well as birds.

Animal allergens become airborne and can stick to soft materials such as upholstery, rugs/carpets and clothing. Symptoms can occur even if the animal is not present.

Tips to reduce exposure to pets:

  • If a child is allergic to a pet, consider removing that pet from the classroom.
  • Limit the child’s exposure to the pet.
  • Students and personnel should wash hands with soap and water after handling pets.
  • Clean cage/remove litter away from students and staff.
  • Avoid upholstered chairs and carpets in schools.

Tips to reduce exposure to pests:

  • Seek expert service and advice to remove unwanted pests and complete clean-up on school property.
  • Schedule removal and clean-up activities on weekends or holidays.

Mould

Mould spores are tiny structures produced by moulds for reproduction purposes.

Outdoor moulds are usually at their peak in late summer and early fall, but are generally present whenever there is no snow. Common outdoor sources of spores include: decaying fallen leaves, soil, vegetation, rotting wood, and lawn grass.

Indoors, mould spores can be found in portable classrooms, washrooms, window sills, kitchens, garbage containers, carpets, upholstered furniture, and near plumbing.

Tips to reduce exposure:

  • Ensure leaves and other vegetation are cleaned up and discarded.
  • Schedule landscape work, yard cleanup and portable building installation/removal on weekends or holidays.
  • Repair water damage as quickly as possible.
  • Maintain relative humidity level less than 50 per cent (a hygrometer is a useful, inexpensive device for measuring and monitoring indoor humidity levels).
  • Ensure adequate ventilation in portable classrooms.
  • Promote air circulation with use of vents and fans.
  • Clean shower areas often.
  • Small areas of mould can be cleaned using mild unscented soap and water. A trained contractor may be needed to clean bigger areas of mould.
  • Wear mask and gloves to limit exposure when cleaning.
  • Remove carpet from humid areas.
  • Discard any mouldy items.
  • Repair any leaks and moisture problems promptly.
  • If needed, consult professional service for mould abatement/removal.

Note: There is no practical way to eliminate all moulds indoors. The best way to control indoor mould growth is to control moisture. Prevention is key.

Pollen

Close up of pollenPollen grains are tiny, invisible particles given off by trees, grass, flowers and certain weeds such as ragweed. Pollen levels are highest from early spring until the first fall frost.

Increased pollen levels are found where trees, grasses, flowers and weeds grow. There will be higher levels on dry, sunny, windy days. Pollen are found outdoors, but are also carried indoors through windows and doors and on clothing.

Tips to reduce exposure:

  • Since air pollution can increase the negative health effects of pollen, limit outdoor activities on days with high pollution levels.
  • Close windows to prevent pollen from coming into the school.
  • Use air conditioning to clean, cool and dry the air.

Note: Check pollen levels and forecasts when planning outdoor activities. Check pollen levels at www.weather.ca.

Dust mites

Dust mites are tiny microscopic creatures that feed on the flakes of skin that people and pets shed daily. They thrive in warm and humid environments. Dust mites can be carried in many ways, including on human hair, animal dander, food scraps, stuffed toys, and chalk dust.

Tips to reduce exposure:

  • Maintain relative humidity level less than 50 per cent.
  • Minimize objects that accumulate dust.
  • If possible, limit carpeting
  • Vacuum carpets daily, ideally with a vacuum cleaner equipped with a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
  • Wear a mask while vacuuming.
  • Dust surfaces frequently with a damp cloth.
  • If possible, replace upholstered furniture.

Cockroaches

Cockroaches are common insects that can be found anywhere in schools. They thrive where water and food are improperly stored. They are predominant in inner city areas.

Allergens are found anywhere there are decaying cockroach body parts and feces. They are found mostly in kitchens and bathrooms near taps, water pipes, cupboards, appliances, toilets, and garbage containers.

Tips to reduce exposure:

  • Remove garbage from washrooms and kitchen areas.
  • Clean up all food crumbs and spilled liquids immediately.
  • Wash dishes, cooking equipment and work tops promptly after use.
  • Keep sinks, tables and floors clean.
  • Seal cracks and openings around or inside cabinets.
  • Store garbage in covered containers.
  • Schedule any extermination processes on weekends or holidays.

Visit www.RyansLaw.ca to learn about Ryan’s Law – new Ontario legislation helping protect students with asthma.

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Electronic Cigarettes

Electronic cigarettes(also known as e-cigarettes) are battery-operated devices that mimic the use of conventional cigarettes. They produce vapour (also referred to as aerosol) instead of smoke. The act of using an e-cigarette is often referred to as “vaping”.

What is an e-cigarette?Vape
A typical e-cigarette consists of:

  • A battery
  • A cartridge containing water, flavouring, and sometimes nicotine, in a base of propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin
  • An atomizer that heats this liquid to produce the vapour

What are the concerns with e-cigarettes?
We do not know exactly what they contain – some tests show they contain cancer causing poisons, while other tests show that they do not contain what they state

  • There is no good evidence showing that e-cigarettes can help someone quit smoking
  • It has not been properly tested with:
    • The general public
    • Pregnant women (or while nursing)
    • The elderly
    • Individuals with a lung or heart condition
  • Some e-cigarettes may appeal to kids and youth (e.g., candy-flavoured)E-cigarettes could lead to regular smokingE-cigarettes could lead to regular smoking
    • There have been reports of children being poisoned by eating the ingredients
    • E-cigarettes could lead to regular smoking

Second-hand vapour
There is also a concern with second-hand vapour – the vapour that comes off the unit or is exhaled by the user. We don’t know the short or long term health effects of exposure to second-hand vapour. The Ontario government is proposing changes to the laws so that e-cigarettes and marijuana are banned in public places. Find out more at this Government of Ontario website.

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The How To Health Guide – 2016 Edition

The Public Policy Working Group of Health Charities Coalition of Canada has launched the revised How to Health Guide. The guide was developed to assist patients and caregivers in understanding the Canadian health-care system.

The How to health guide coverIt covers important topics such as:

  • Understanding the Canadian health-care system
  • Finding proper health information and services
  • Talking with your health-care providers
  • Managing your health condition
  • How medication coverage works across Canada
  • Advocating and getting the support you need

English and French versions are now available.

 

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