The Health Promotion Board Singapore website has reported that 20% Singaporean children are suffering from asthma. Common symptoms of asthma are shortness of breath, wheezing or noisy breathing together with persistent coughs, especially at night.
According to Professor Hugo Van Bever, Head of Pediatric Allergy, Immunology and Rheumatology Department of Pediatrics at National University Hospital Singapore (NUH), younger children who are suffering from Asthma are typically caused by viruses while older asthmatic children are commonly caused by allergy.
Contrary to many misconceptions, dust is not an allergen, but it is an indoor air pollutant that may irritate respiratory airway. The real culprit is actually house dust mites (HDM) that are mainly found in the pillows and mattresses. Medical reports have found these microscopic creatures to be common allergens among children suffering from allergies. It is not the mites that cause reaction; it is their droppings that trigger asthma and other allergy reactions.
Recent studies by NUH in a published journal in July 2012 have reported findings that young asthmatic children who are tested positive to HDM allergy would have higher risks to have persistent wheeze when they grow older.
Asthma, unfortunately, is an incurable disease. But, with regular preventive treatment and allergy management, about 50% of children can grow out of this chronic disease, according to Prof Hugo. As house dust mite allergy is the most common allergy in children with asthma, it is important to reduce the exposure of HDM to manage the onset of asthma attacks.
How to reduce exposure to dust mites?
1. Change and wash bed sheet with hot water weekly
HDM are mainly found within the mattress. It is important to change bed linen weekly and wash them with water at least 60 degree Celsius or higher for thorough elimination of the allergens.
2. Vacuum mattress thoroughly
HDM thrive well within the mattress, especially in Singapore's humid and warm climate. Our body skin flakes and perspiration are their main source of food and fluid which makes the mattress the ideal place for them to live and grow. Monthly vacuuming of mattress would be advisable to reduce the amount of accumulated dust, dust mites, body skin flakes and excrements, to reduce the exposure to the common allergen.
While there are many household vacuum cleaners available in the market, many may not be adequately manufactured to thoroughly remove the allergens embedded within the mattress. Professional mattress cleaning companies who are equipped with approved mattress cleaning equipment and correct cleaning technique should be engaged to thoroughly remove the unwanted 'rubbish' and microorganism in the mattress.
3. Covering pillow and mattress with covers
Pillows and mattresses can be covered with anti-dust mite covers, which are made of plastic or plastic like material, to reduce penetration of dust and HDM into mattress. Pillows are recommended to be discarded once a year after usage, if they are not covered by pillow casings.
4. Avoid lying on carpets
Besides mattress, carpet is the next favourite hideout for these microscopic mites. If your floor is carpeted, ensure carpet is regularly vacuumed and cleaned by the professionals. The one who is allergic to HDM should not be vacuuming the floor or carpet.
5. Do not use humidifier or vaporizers
Humidifiers and vaporisers will increase humidity in the room and increase dust mites growth.
6. Application of anti-dust mite solution on soft furnishings
Apply chemical safe anti dust mite solution that helps to neutralize dust mite excrements in the carpet, sofa, mattress, soft toys, and other soft furnishings.
Professor Hugo Van Bever, Head of Pediatric Allergy, Immunology and Rheumatology Department of Pediatrics at National University Hospital Singapore (NUH)