Nationally, 1 in 15 people have asthma. In Missouri, almost 9% of children have asthma , and in St. Louis, the figure is 1 out of 5! Asthma is the #1 reason children visit the emergency room and the #1 reason children are hospitalized.
Recent articles concerning The Healthy Homes program discussed the first and second basic principles, Keep It Dry and Keep It Clean. Continuing in our series is the third principle, Keep It Pest Free.
While it makes sense to keep out unwanted pests, we may not realize what the presence of pests can mean. Between 1980 and 1994, the prevalence of asthma increased 75% overall. Some of the pests associated with asthma or asthma symptoms include dust mites, cockroaches, and mice dander. According to a 2007 American Housing Survey, overall 5.5% of homes had signs of mice in the past in the past three months. The presence of pests is two-fold. First, no one wants cockroaches or mice in their home. So, in an attempt to get rid of the bugs or mice, we use pesticides. This may or may not take care of the pest, but its use may be causing another problem. The health effects associated with pesticides include: eye, nose, throat irritation; skin rashes, stomach cramps, nausea; central nervous system damage; kidney damage; and increased risk of cancers. Overall, almost half of all households with children under five stored pesticides within reach of children. In 2007, Poison Control Centers reported 16,000 pesticide exposures requiring treatment.
So, what are we to do? First, keep them out! Block any pest entries, passages, and hiding places. Second, reduce the availability of their food. Don’t leave dishes in the sink overnight and keep food stored in plastic containers or bags. If you already have mice, be sure to empty your kitchen trash nightly. Clean up the crumbs, and never leave grease out overnight. Use traps and appropriate pesticides.
Be careful when using pesticides, as many are toxic, even those designed for home use. Never use a spray pesticide or fogger. Instead, use baits and powders, such as gel baits, traps, and borate powder. Be sure to keep even these items away from children and pets. Good spots are next to walls, baseboards, under sinks, in cabinets, and near plumbing fixtures.
Through our recent training to become a certified Healthy Homes inspector, in conjunction with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation St. Louis Chapter, we have developed a 65-point, whole house inspection for families who deal with allergy and asthma issues to help identify and remedy environmental issues that can cause problems. We’re offering this inspection at a reduced rate of $90 through the end of January for anyone affiliated with, or who mentions the AAFA-STL when scheduling their appointment (normal value is $140). What’s more, for every 5 inspections purchased, Get It Done is offering one hour of service to AAFA-STL clients.
AAFA-STL is a nonprofit organization that has been serving the asthmatic and allergic needs of the St. Louis community for over 31 years. AAFA-STL’s medical assistance program, Project Concern, provided uninsured and underinsured children with life-saving asthma and allergy medications, equipment, and more.