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Budget-Friendly Home Asthma Program Works

At-Home Fixes Can Help Kids Stay Healthy Without Breaking the Bank
By
WebMD Health News

Oct. 13, 2005 -- A home-based plan to ease kids' asthma symptoms works and may be cost-effective, a new study shows.

The study included 800 children aged 5 to 11 with moderate to severe asthma. Most were black or Hispanic children living in low-income, inner-city neighborhoods, where asthma rates tend to be particularly high.

The study was done in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, New York, Seattle, and Tucson, Ariz. However, the strategy should work anywhere. The basic goal was to identify what triggers the kids' asthma and teach the families how to get rid of those triggers.

The report appears in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology's online edition.

At-Home Checklist

In the study, trained environmental counselors visited the participants' homes five times in one year to provide instruction on reducing asthma triggers.

Those triggers included many of the usual suspects for asthma -- dust mites, cockroaches, secondhand smoke, pet dander, rodents, and mold.

The families also received some resources to cope with those problems. Here's the list:

  • Allergen-impermeable covers for pillows and mattresses
  • Vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air filter (HEPA filter)
  • Air cleaner with a HEPA filter for homes with smokers, pets, or mold problems
  • Vent filters for homes with forced air heat
  • Miscellaneous cleaning equipment
  • Pest management services

The mix was tailored to each child's asthma triggers.

All of the families participating in the at-home asthma program got the allergen-impermeable covers for pillows and mattresses. Those covers help block out dust mites.

Dust mites are known for triggering asthma and allergies. They're microscopic creatures that live in dust. They thrive in pillows, mattresses, bedding, stuffed animals, and humid settings.

More Asthma-Free Days

The interventions were "clearly effective in reducing asthma symptoms," says researcher Meyer Kattan, MD, CM, in a news release.

Kattan works in the pediatrics department of New York's Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He and his colleagues had assigned some of the kids to the at-home program and the others to a comparison group.

The kids in the program showed asthma benefits including:

  • 38 more days without asthma symptoms
  • 19% fewer unscheduled clinic visits
  • 13% drop in use of rescue inhalers for acute asthma symptoms. However, use of other asthma medications was not shown to be reduced.

Budget-Friendly Plan

The researchers totaled all of the expenses and say the program may be cost-effective.

Over the year of the program and one year follow-up, each symptom-free day cost a little less than $28, the study shows.

The study was funded by the U.S. government's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Out-of-pocket expenses and benefits could be different.

"These results show that tailored interventions such as these may have a substantial long-term impact on asthma symptoms and resource use among inner-city children," NIEHS director David A. Schwartz, MD, says, in a news release.

If this particular program doesn't come to your neighborhood, you can create your own at-home plan to reduce asthma triggers. If in doubt, ask your doctor for pointers.

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