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Putting the ‘Ma’ in Asthma

Apr
25
2008

You might share my opinion about housecleaning, which is basically that dust bunnies can be a legitimate form of creative, artistic expression. But I do accept that there’s a certain level of cleaning necessary in a house containing child occupants, that level to be determined between you and your inner scold.
Or maybe, you and your doctor, if your kid is one of the 89 percent of American children with asthma and allergies (well, not really that many, but it seems like it). Son the elder has (luckily very mild) asthma. One of the common asthma triggers is an allergy to dust mites, so one of the first things you find out when you get the asthma diagnosis is what you as a parent (mom) can do to help your poor child feel better: clean house.
Dust mites are these miniscule little critters that feed off our skin flakes (gross) and particularly build up in mattresses and stuffed animals and other things around us where we sleep; you can reduce their numbers with hot-water washing and vacuuming and other forms of cleaning (gross).
Flu can be another trigger, but that season is over for now; for pollen allergy sufferers it’s their difficult time now. But dust mites are always in season.
We’ve gotten similar instructions in two countries. In the U.S. there was a little more emphasis on buying a hypoallergenic mattress cover and washing everything in hot water a lot; in Spain we’ve gotten more emphasis on daily cleaning, having fewer things in the bedroom (ha! try that in the U.S.) and ironing bed linens and such with a hot iron (ha! again).
I don’t really take this personally. I know the doctor’s not really hiding a chuckle as he hands over the “Managing Asthma” cleaning instructions. What kind of mother wouldn’t want to do everything she can to help her sick child? Sure, supporting public transportation and stopping global warming would seem to be a good idea too, but it’s a bit simpler to get parents to clean house.
One of my favorite kid doctors that we’ve come across, the allergist back in California, earned his high rank on my list by listening to what parents had to say. Allergies are a medical issue with uncertain areas, so he made an extra effort to understand each child’s individual response.
So while I have no reason to doubt that cleaning is a helpful treatment (or maybe I do), I do wish there were a way to exploit the theory that suggests that the current widespread wave of allergies have been in some way triggered by too much hygiene. (Sorry, as far as I can tell, the theory has nothing to do with treatment. But still…)
“Ms. Klosky,” my own Dr. McDreamy would say, “I can tell you’re a really conscientious housekeeper. But you have just got to let the dust build up. Sure, it’ll be tough to let the dirt just lie there, to leave the teddy bears unwashed, the tchotchkes to wallow in the muck, but you’ve got to do it – For Your Son’s Health.”
That would be a TV episode I’d cheer.

Share  Posted by Deborah Klosky at 1:44 PM | Permalink

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