Dishwashers are not only a wonderful timesaving luxury, but they also give us the reassurance that our dishes are exceptionally clean. A new study revealed that there could be a downside to dishwashers making dishes “too clean”; the study found that hand washing dishes instead could lower your children’s risk of developing allergic conditions like asthma or eczema.
Researchers at Queen Silvia Children’s Hospital in Sweden quizzed parents of approximately 1,000 Swedish children, all 7 or 8 years old, about the children’s history of asthma, eczema and seasonal allergies. 12% of the families in the study hand washed dishes, and the children in those families had nearly half the risk of developing allergic conditions in comparison to children in families that used a dishwasher.
Hand washing dishes exposes children to more bacteria, which could actually be beneficial in strengthening their immune system, and could be the reason why they have a reduced risk of developing an allergic condition.
Quite a few cultures practice spring cleaning—the Chinese, for example, clean their homes to get ready for the new year. They clean as a way to rid the home of bad luck and invite good fortune in the coming year. In the past, families of many cultures kept their homes tightly sealed from the elements, but heating their homes with coal, oil and wood made dwellings dingy by the time spring rolled around. When spring finally sprung, families hauled everything out of the house to give furniture and clothes a thorough cleaning. Spring cleaning is a refreshing way to give old man winter the boot, and welcome warmer weather with a clean home.
If you have asthma, just the thought of stirring up dust, pet dander, and mold while spring cleaning is enough to make you sneeze. However, you can take a few precautions to prevent a flare up while cleaning.
- If your asthma management plan has been successful, you have a better chance of avoiding an asthma attack while cleaning. If cleaning in the past has irritated your asthma, keep rescue inhalers on hand.
- Wear a mask while cleaning to shield your nose from cleaning product chemicals. Also consider using more natural products like baking soda and vinegar, which will fight mold without irritating your lungs.
- Start by cleaning the bedroom since that’s where we spend a lot of time. Wash bedding on the hot cycle; wipe down surfaces with soapy water; and dust items like lamps, fans and blinds.
- Try to schedule your cleaning early enough in the day so you can spend a few hours out of the house afterward. That will give your lungs a break while dust settles and odors from cleaning products dissipates.
Are you on an asthma treatment plan, but need a refresher on how to get the most out of your medicine? Check out our asthma resources page for equipment instructions, educational videos, and other asthma resources.
It’s easy to put famous athletes on a pedestal—their toned physiques and ability to obliterate fitness boundaries makes them seem superhuman. We also hear stories about famous athletes that overcame physical challenges like the loss of a limb, a chronic illness, or even partial loss of sight. A new study’s results should be encouraging for asthmatics worried about their ability to exercise—John Dickinson from Kent University discovered that 70% of 33 swimmers on the British Swimming Squad have some type of asthma. He also found that 30% of the cyclists from Team Sky have asthma.
A number of well-known American athletes have also had successful careers despite having asthma. Former NFL football player Jerome Bettis was diagnosed with asthma at age 15 and worried that diagnosis would end his athletic career. However, he stuck with his asthma treatment plan and went on to play for the Los Angeles Rams, the Pittsburgh Steelers and win a Super Bowl championship. Olympic swimmer and six-time gold medalist Amy Van Dyken is another example of an athlete with a successful career despite an asthma diagnosis. Dyken was diagnosed with severe asthma as a child and her doctors recommended participation in sports as a way to make her lungs stronger and prevent against future asthma attacks.
The success stories of these athletes is an inspiration to asthmatics that are concerned that their condition will be a roadblock to an active lifestyle. Their stories also relay the importance of working with your doctor to develop an effective asthma treatment plan. If you need help adjusting to new equipment, check out our asthma instructional videos to enhance your treatment plan.
March Madness will be heating up soon, sparking an annual heated rivalry among fans and players alike. One former basketball player has created his own “team” in the hopes of unifying a diverse group with a common goal. NBA Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins launched a Diabetes Dream Team in 2014, and the Team’s goal is to help adults with type 2 diabetes improve their ability to manage the condition. Dominique’s Diabetes Dream Team stresses three important tools to a successful diabetes management plan: diet, exercise and proper medication. Dominique’s own team is comprised of his physicians, a diabetes educator, a nutritionist and a fitness expert, who together offer him guidance on daily diabetes management.
Wlikins said he realized that small changes can make a big impact in treating his diabetes, and he wants to encourage others to “think differently about managing their diabetes.” Diabetics can download Dominique’s “Diabetes Coaches’ Clipboard” for tips on diabetes management from Dominique and his team of experts.
Are you looking for additional support and ideas in how to better manage your diabetes? Download our free diabetes management resources and join our free diabetes newsletter!
Smile Cute Dog Love Boy Puppy Playful Kid
Many pet owners view their furry or feathered friend as a part of the family. But what happens when you’re allergic to that furry family member? If you’re allergic to your pet but can’t imagine life without Fido, you can take a few precautions to reduce the impact your pet has on triggering asthma attacks.
One common pet allergy myth is that people are allergic to the pet’s fur. Pet dander and saliva are the real culprits triggering allergies, so trimming the pet’s fur won’t necessarily make a difference in reducing asthma attacks. If you have a bird, their feathers aren’t the problem, the dander they generate and the mites in the feathers are what triggers an allergic reaction.
To reduce the impact pets have on your asthma, keep pets out of the bedroom and vacuum frequently. Try to mop hardwood and tile floors weekly. If you have a bird, a family member without a pet allergy should be in charge of cleaning the cage since this is where most of the dander and dust mites will gather. HEPA filters – both in your home and in your vacuum cleaner – can reduce the number of allergens in your home up to 98%. These precautions won’t completely alleviate your allergy symptoms, so talk to your doctor about medications and additional steps to take. To learn more about pet allergies and asthma, check our asthma education page.
We know that treating asthma will make you breathe easier, but managing your asthma will also make your heart happy. A recent Mayo Clinic study found that asthmatics with active asthma have a 70% higher risk of heart attack than individuals without asthma. Dr. Young Juhn, the lead researcher of the study, stressed the importance of properly controlling asthma to reduce the risk of a heart attack.
Inflammation could be the reason for the link between asthma and heart disease. Inflammation results with the immune system’s response to infection and injuries, and asthma and heart disease are associated with higher levels of inflammation. Periodic inflammation isn’t necessarily problematic, but chronic inflammation can lead to permanent bodily damage.
Managing your asthma is important for your heart health, but it’s also a good idea to look at other heart attack risk factors that you should address. Talk to your doctor about whether or not you have other heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, smoking and high cholesterol, and what you can do to manage these conditions.
The NC Department of Health and Human Services released new figures about the total flu-related deaths in NC – the count has increased to 114, with 15 new deaths during the week of Jan. 11. Adults 65 and older have taken the hardest hit this flu season; doctors recommend everyone get the flu shot, especially children, elder adults, and those with asthma.
This year’s strain, H3N2, is particularly dangerous, and a mutation of the strain has limited the effectiveness of the flu shot. However, doctors still recommend the flu shot because it can make a difference in many cases. Common complications caused by the flu are sinusitis, bronchitis and pneumonia. The flu can cause inflammation around the heart, dehydration, and can worsen medical conditions like asthma and diabetes.
If you have a chronic medical condition like asthma or diabetes, talk to your doctor about preventative care, like the flu shot, and also about a management plan if you contract the flu. The CDC recommends influenza antiviral drugs for high-risk patients; antiviral drugs can lessen symptoms, reduce the amount of time you have the flu by up to two days, and can prevent complications like pneumonia. Antiviral drugs are most effective when administered within two days of getting sick, but using them later can still be beneficial. In addition to getting a flu shot, take other precautions like washing your hands frequently, and sanitizing common areas and office workstations with disinfectants. If you do contract the flu, it’s best to stay home to avoid spreading the illness to others.
Patients with diabetes know that managing their condition is a daily challenge of monitoring and medicating their condition. Some diabetics face an added hurdle because they face daily food insecurity; low-income diabetics wrestle with being able to afford medication and healthy food. A recent study looked at a group of Boston-based Type 2 diabetics of varying financial status. The group with food insecurity that also tried to cut back on their medication was half as likely as the more financially secure group to manage their diabetes.
Patients with food insecurity were 97 percent more likely to have high blood sugar and high levels of “bad” cholesterol, which indicates that their diabetes was not under control. Researchers determined that addressing access to both medication and food could play a role in improving patients’ ability to manage diabetes. Patients and doctors need to look at the whole picture and identify if a patient’s basic needs are being met in addition to having access to medication.
Have you ever experienced sensory overload? You may be able to recall a moment when a stranger walked by and your nose scrunched up in response to their overpowering perfume. Or maybe you had to leave a cosmetics store because the scented lotions and perfumes were too strong. For some, a strong scent can be more than an annoyance. It can cause headaches, dizziness, sneezing, wheezing and difficulty breathing, or even hives.
Asthmatics with a fragrance sensitivity react to strong scents in a similar way that they would react to allergens. Strong fragrances can act as irritants that worsen asthma symptoms and make it difficult to breathe. Perfumes aren’t the only culprits; detergents, soaps, candles and cleaning products can also trigger a reaction. Identifying which scents are “safe” can take a little trial and error. Start by trying unscented or fragrance-free cleaning and cosmetic products. If you notice that a coworker wears a perfume that causes you to sneeze, wheeze, or run for cover, talk to your supervisor about educating the office on fragrance sensitivities. An air purifier or fan could also help lessen the scent. If all else fails, see if you can move to a different space in the office or alter your work schedule so you spend less time in contact with the problematic perfume.
North Carolina has famously high humidity levels and high humidity can lead to mold, mildew and dust mites in the home. High humidity can also make breathing more difficult for those with allergies. The drier, less humid winter months bring a new set of challenges for managing asthma symptoms affected by indoor air quality.
Year round, the target humidity level indoors is 35 to 55 percent. It may seem intuitive to counteract the drier air by using humidifiers, but that can create condensation and mold in days when the temperature dips below 30 degrees. While high humidity can cause mold, low humidity can make the house feel too cold and you’ll be inclined to increase the heat. Low humidity can also dry out hard wood floors and building materials. If you notice growing gaps in floorboards, that could be a sign of low humidity levels.
The first step to managing indoor humidity levels is to monitor these levels either with a portable weather station or the controls on your HVAC system. Newer thermostats, like Sensi, provide humidity readings and thermostat schedules that can be adjusted through a smartphone app. Your HVAC system or portable weather station may provide both indoor and outdoor readings to help you make comparisons. By monitoring and comparing humidity levels, you’ll have a better starting point for deciding whether or not to add or reduce humidity levels in the home. Finding the right humidity level is an important step in helping you breathe easier indoors, especially if you have asthma or allergies. For additional help managing humidity and indoor air quality, contact your HVAC technician or an indoor air quality specialist.
Consistently taking medication and monitoring blood-sugar levels can be a big challenge for diabetics. A new implantable pump could make a big difference in the treatment plan for many individuals with diabetes. Intarcia Therapeutics Inc. is a Boston-based startup that has developed a pump, about the size of a matchstick, that can be implanted into the patient’s abdomen. The pump continually delivers a small amount of exenatide, which controls blood-sugar levels, for up to a year. The results of a study of 520 patients using the pump and oral medicines showed promising results by significantly lower blood sugar.
The pump is called the ITCA 650, and only requires a five-minute procedure to insert the device. Intarcia Therapeutics Inc. is receiving some funding support from Servier, a French pharmaceutical company. Regulators will review the device in early 2016 before it can go to market.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…until you get the flu. The downside to the Holidays is that it coincides with flu season, and some unlucky individuals will have to skip some of the festivities in order to recuperate. The flu can cause more complications for the very young or old, and for individuals with diabetes, heart disease or asthma. If you have asthma, you’re at a higher risk of experiencing respiratory problems associated with the flu.
Individuals with asthma should get the flu shot each year as a preventative measure. Some people argue that the flu shot can make you sick or that the effectiveness of the flu shot is a gamble. Some individuals do experience short-term flu-like side effects like aches or a low-grad fever, but it could be their body building antibodies against the flu. It’s also possible that they were already coming down with the flu when they got the shot. Researchers track global flu viruses during the year to identify what will be the most effective combination of vaccines. Although researchers are thorough about developing the vaccine, there isn’t one vaccine they can develop that will work for everyone. But, doctors still recommend a flu shot as the best preventative measure against the flu.
If you do come down with the flu, call your doctor about how to manage your asthma symptoms so they don’t get worse. Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medicine that will reduce your flu symptoms, and they may alter your asthma action plan to compensate.
Both the changing seasons and Holiday traditions can pose challenges for asthmatics, but there are a few small adjustments you can make to breathe easy during the Holidays.
Mold is an asthma trigger to watch out for in the winter. Wet leaves and fireplace logs are two common offenders for generating mold. To reduce your contact with mold, keep wet leaves away from your home’s foundation, windows and doors. Leave logs outside until you need them to reduce the amount of mold that takes up residence indoors.
Scented Holiday candles, air fresheners, and live Christmas trees can also be asthma triggers. An artificial tree is a great alternative to a live tree, but if live trees are a tradition, you can make a few adjustments to avoid an asthma attack. When you’re tree shopping, avoid purchasing a tree that has a yellow dusting of pollen. Once you bring the tree home, wipe the trunk with a diluted bleach and water solution (20 parts water to one part bleach) to get rid of mold.
When you venture outside, layer up to prevent an attack brought on by cold air entering your lungs. Cover your nose and mouth with a scarf for an extra barrier against the cold.
For more on managing indoor air quality, keeping humidity levels in check, and how to filter particulates, check out our post on indoor air quality.
Remember that scene from “Indiana Jones: The Temple of Doom” when Willie Scott has to wade through creepy crawly bugs to save Indiana? Most of us can empathize with Willie’s feelings of disgust, but you may be surprised to learn about a worm that could improve your health. Sounds as far-fetched as an Indiana Jones movie, right? Maybe not…
Scientists in Australia conducted a clinical trial where they used hookworms to improve symptoms of celiac disease. Researchers infected 12 study participants with hookworm larvae and gave the participants increasing doses of gluten over the course of a year. As the study progressed, study participants were able to eat up to a medium-sized bowl of spaghetti without experiencing negative health effects. Normally, a patient with celiac’s could experience symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting from eating that much gluten.
The worms had a positive effect on study participants because hook worms can reduce the immune response to inflammatory illnesses. These findings are also promising for sufferers of other inflammatory illnesses like asthma and Crohn’s disease.
I bet you have a favorite Holiday dish, maybe something that you look forward to all year. Friends and family bring their A-game when baking and cooking for the Holidays, but it can be challenging for diabetics to enjoy the festive food while staying on track with managing their diabetes. A little planning will help you enjoy your favorite Holiday foods in a healthy way.
Meal Time Madness
One aspect of Holiday meals that could throw off your diabetes management plan is that Holiday meals often include more food than usual, and might happen midafternoon. Your family might skip lunch, eat midafternoon, and skip dinner as they recover from food comas. To keep your glucose levels on track, consider eating a snack at your normal meal time.
Select Healthy Substitutions
You don’t have to pass on pie to stay on track with a healthy diet during the holidays. There are small changes you can make to still enjoy Holiday meals, but cut back on calories. Try fat-free or lite alternatives to sour cream and mayonnaise, cut back a little on the amount of sugar you put in desserts, and consider steaming veggies or sautéing with low calorie alternatives to oil like soy sauce.
Sample, Don’t Stuff!
When it’s time to eat, stick to your favorites, don’t feel obligated to try everything. If someone insists you try their famous mashed potatoes, just take enough for two bites. If you’re inclined to try it all, make sure veggies take up the most real estate on your plate. Every little bit helps!
Old Man Winter’s arrival means you’re out of the woods for allergy season…only to be greeted by another slew of potential asthma triggers. Winter can also be a tough time for asthmatics because the cold weather forces us indoors where we’re surround by asthma triggers like pets, mold, dust mites and dander. Venturing outdoors can also bring on an asthma attack if the cold air irritates your lungs.
As you work with your doctor to identify asthma triggers you can take some steps to reduce the risk of asthma attacks. In the bedroom, you can encase the mattress in an impervious mattress cover and use mite-proof covers for pillows to reduce interactions with dust mites. Keep your home cool and dry to ward off mold and mildew; be sure to run the exhaust fan after you shower.
It’s cold and flu season, and these illnesses can exacerbate your asthma symptoms. Take precautions by frequently washing your hands and consider getting a flu shot. If the cold air outdoors is an asthma trigger for you, workout indoors and cover your mouth and nose with a scarf when you’re outside.
Cigarettes used to be marketed as a trendy and cool, but they’re increasingly being replaced by e-cigarettes. The CDC found that over 263,000 teens who had never smoked a cigarette before tried e-cigarettes in 2013, which is three times the amount of teens trying e-cigarettes in 2011. Since there’s no tar in e-cigarettes, some consumers believe that e-cigarettes are a healthier alternative to regular cigarettes, but this isn’t entirely true.
Most e-cigarettes do contain nicotine, which can cause inflammation in the lungs. Particles in the vapor and flavoring in the e-cigarettes can also irritate the lungs, which is a recipe for trouble for those with asthma. These factors can exacerbate asthma symptoms and potentially bring on an asthma attack.
Eating healthy isn’t just good for your waistline, a new study shows that children with asthma can experience reduced symptoms by avoiding certain fatty foods and incorporating omega-3 fish oils to their diet. Asthma is the top reason children miss school, and obese children don’t respond as well to their asthma medicine. Dr. Jason Lang, a Pulmonary Pediatrician at Nemours Children’s Hospital, is conducting the study and hopes to extend it through May 2016. Children in the study keep a food journal and also take an omega-3 supplement, and showed notable change in their asthma management and experienced a reduction in asthma attacks.
Interested in keeping your own food journal? MyFitnessPal is free online tool and mobile app that let’s you track your meals, calorie intake, and exercise. You can also incorporate more omega-3s in your diet by eating seafood like salmon, sardines, trout, fresh tuna and halibut. Some foods are fortified or enriched with omega-3 fatty acids like eggs, milk, yogurt, bread, pasta, and walnuts.
Quite the stir erupted in September with the spread of a respiratory illness most dangerous to asthmatics and children. Doctors initially struggled testing for the disease since the Center for Disease Control didn’t have a recommendation for a test. As of Oct. 14, the CDC issued a press release about a new, quicker lab test. Initially we may see a rise in confirmed cases, but keep in mind this is due in part to the more rapid test results.
Most CDC-confirmed cases of EV-D68 this year have been among children, especially those with asthma or a history of wheezing. Doctors recommend frequent hand washing to prevent the spread of the disease, and those that contract the illness should avoid contact with others. There is no vaccine to prevent EV-D68, so these preventative measures are especially important in keeping the illness from spreading.
For years, diet sodas have been touted as a healthy alternative to regular sodas, but scientists recently found that artificial sweeteners may be a risk factor for diabetes. Scientists studied a control and experimental group–mice drinking plain water, and mice drinking water that contained artificial sweeteners. They found that the mice consuming artificial sweeteners showed marked glucose intolerance because the artificial sweeteners alter the balance of gut microbes.
Researchers also conducted a trial with 400 people and discovered that those who consumed artificial sweeteners had “markers” for diabetes like higher blood sugar levels and glucose intolerance. Scientists leading the study said that artificial sweeteners may exacerbate glucose intolerance and diabetes; instead of being a healthy substitute, artificial sweeteners could make diabetes worse. The sweeteners used in the study were saccharin, sucralose and aspartame. Next time you reach for a diet soda, consider a potentially healthier alternative like sparkling water.