Make your own free website on

Please install the latest Internet Explorer or Netscape browser to view Java modules. If you do not know how, contact me.



Asthma Alert Allergy Prevention Cigarettes  Cockroaches Dust Mites Food Grass House Dust Mold Spores Pets + Animals Ragweed Trees

Asthma + Allergy Prevention
Asthma is one of our nation's most common chronic health conditions and is on the rise. It can start in childhood, resolve, recur or develop in adulthood. Many people have both asthma and allergies. Unlike an allergy, asthma is an inflammatory disease of the lung. Since your nose connects to your lung, the inflammatory process can occur along the entire airway. Once the airway begins to swell, breathing becomes difficult. Asthmatics are often short of breath and have a feeling of tightness in the chest. All asthmatics should be under a doctor's care to manage their disease, to keep it under control and to keep them healthy

Asthma is a chronic lung condition with ongoing airway inflammation that results in recurring acute episodes (attacks) of breathing problems such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. These symptoms occur because the inflammation makes the airways overreact to a variety of stimuli including physical activity, upper respiratory infections, allergens, and irritants. Exposure to these stimuli--often called triggers--creates more swelling and blocking of the airways. Asthma episodes can be mild, moderate, or even life threatening. Vigorous exercise will cause symptoms for most students with asthma if their asthma is not well controlled. Some students experience symptoms only when they exercise. However, today's treatments can successfully control asthma so that students can participate fully in physical activities most of the time.

Asthma varies from student to student and often from season to season. This is why physical education teachers and coaches need to understand what asthma is and what the individual needs of their students are. At times, programs for students with asthma may need temporary modification, such as varying the type, length, and/or frequency of activity. At all times, students with asthma should be included in activities as much as possible. Remaining behind in the gym or library or frequently sitting on the bench can set the stage for teasing, loss of self-esteem, unnecessary restriction of activity, and low levels of physical fitness

Common Triggers
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Cockroaches
  • Dust mites
  • Mold
  • Pets and animals
  • Pollen
  • Cold air
  • Exercise
  • Stress
  • Respiratory infections

If your asthma attacks

  • Don't panic
  • Breathe deep, slow and easy
  • Rest
  • Take your prescribed asthma medication
  • Call for help
  • Get to a doctor

Allergy Prevention

The best way to prevent an allergy is to recognize that you have one (see "Signs of an allergy" below). Often people confuse an allergy with a cold or flu. Remember colds are short-lived and passed from person to person, whereas allergies are immune system reactions to normally harmless substances. Allergies are best prevented by avoiding exposure to allergens in the first place. A good first step to avoiding allergens is to follow the various PREVENTIVE STRATEGIES outlined for each allergen or irritant.

Signs of an allergy

  • Sneezing, watery eyes or cold symptoms that last more than 10 days without a fever.
  • Repeated ear and sinus infections.
  • Loss of smell or taste.
  • Frequent throat clearing, hoarseness, coughing or wheezing.
  • Dark circles under the eyes caused by increased blood flow near the sinuses (allergic shines).
  • A crease just above the tip of the nose from constant upward nose wiping (allergic salute).

Cigarette Smoke

Cigarette smoke contains a number of toxic chemicals and irritants. People with allergies may be more sensitive to cigarette smoke than others and research studies indicate that smoking may aggravate allergies.

Smoking does not just harm smokers but also those around them. Research has shown that children and spouses of smokers tend to have more respiratory infections and asthma than those of non-smokers. In addition, exposure to secondhand smoke can increase the risk of allergic complications such as sinusitis and bronchitis.

Common symptoms of smoke irritation are burning or watery eyes, nasal congestion, coughing, hoarseness and shortness of breath presenting as a wheeze.

Preventive Strategies

Don't smoke and if you do, seek support to quit smoking. Contact Puff-Free Partners, such as:

Nicotine Anonymous 415-750-0328 

American Lung Association 800-LUNG-USA

American Cancer Society 800-ACS-2345

  • Seek smoke-free environments in restaurants, theaters and hotel rooms.
  • Avoid smoking in closed areas like homes or cars where others may be exposed to second-hand smoke.


Cockroaches are one of the most common and allergenic of indoor pests.

Recent studies have found a strong association between the presence of cockroaches and increases in the severity of asthma symptoms in individuals who are sensitive to cockroach allergens.

These pests are common even in the cleanest of crowded urban areas and older dwellings. They are found in all types of neighborhoods.

The proteins found in cockroach saliva are particularly allergenic but the body and droppings of cockroaches also contain allergenic

Preventive Strategies

  • Limit the spread of food around the house and especially keep food out of bedrooms.
  • Keep food and garbage in closed containers. Never leave food out in the kitchen.
  • Mop the kitchen floor and wash countertops at least once a week.
  • Eliminate water sources that attract these pests, such as leaky faucets and drain pipes.
  • Plug up crevices around the house through which cockroaches can enter.
  • Use bait stations and other environmentally safe pesticides to reduce cockroach infestation.

House Dust

House dust is a component of who you are. House dust is not just dirt but a mixture of potentially allergenic materials, such as: 
  • fibers
  • food particles
  • mold spores
  • pollens
  • dust mites
  • plant & insect parts
  • hair, animal fur & feathers
  • dried saliva & urine from pets
  • flakes of human & animal skin

The more time you spend indoors, particularly in the fall and winter, the greater your exposure to house dust allergens.

Preventive Strategies

  • Dust rooms thoroughly with a damp cloth at least once a week.
  • Wear protective gloves and a dust mask while cleaning to reduce exposure to dust and cleaning irritants.
  • Use electric and hot water radiant heaters to provide a cleaner source of heat than "blown air" systems.
  • Reduce the number of stuffed animals, wicker baskets, dried flowers and other dust collectors around the house.
  • Replace heavy drapes and blinds with washable curtains or shades.
  • Replace carpets with washable scatter rugs or bare floors (wood, tile or linoleum).

Food Allergies

Our consumption of food nearly triples during the holiday season. With the scrumptious variety of foods available during the holidays, a food allergy can easily present itself. 

Symptoms of a food allergy can be as simple as skin problems (itchiness, rashes or hives) or intestinal troubles (abdominal pain, diarrhea or vomiting), or as dangerous as swelling of the respiratory passages, shortness of breath, fainting or anaphylactic shock.

The more common food allergens are:
  • egg
  • milk
  • shellfish
  • peanuts
  • soy
  • wheat

These foods are often hidden as ingredients in casseroles or desserts. You should be aware of what you are eating, but don't limit your diet to only a few foods since a well balanced diet is best.

If you have a food allergy

  • Beware of foods that cause you symptoms.
  • If you have had severe reactions to a food, talk to your doctor about carrying an epinephrine injector.
  • Learn to read food labels carefully.
  • When dining out, ask about the ingredients used in preparing the dish before tasting the food.
  • If you experience symptoms, avoid any further contact with that food item, rinse your mouth and see a doctor.

Grass Pollen

As with tree pollen, grass pollen is regional as well as seasonal. In addition, grass pollen levels can be affected by temperature, time of day and rain.

Of the 1,200 species of grass that grow in North America, only a small percentage of these cause allergies. The most common grasses that can cause allergies are:

    • Bermuda grass
    • Johnson grass
    • Kentucky bluegrass
    • Orchard grass
    • Sweet vernal grass
    • Timothy grass

Preventive Strategies


  • If you have a grass lawn, have someone else do the mowing. If you must mow the lawn yourself, wear a mask.
  • Keep grass cut short.
  • Choose ground covers that don't produce much pollen, such as Irish moss, bunch, and dichondra.


  • Avoid the outdoors between 5-10 am. Save outside activities for late afternoon or after a heavy rain, when pollen levels are lower.
  • Keep windows in your home and car closed to lower exposure to pollen. To keep cool, use air conditioners and avoid using window and attic fans.
  • Be aware that pollen can also be transported indoors on people and pets.
  • Dry your clothes in an automatic dryer rather than hanging them outside. Otherwise pollen can collect on clothing and be carried indoors.

Mold Spores

Mold spores are allergens that can be found both indoors and out doors. There is no definite seasonal pattern to molds that grow indoors. However outdoor molds are seasonal, first appearing in early spring and thriving until the first frost.

Indoor molds are found in dark, warm, humid and musty environments such as damp basements, cellars, attics, bathrooms and laundry rooms. They are also found where fresh food is stored, in refrigerator drip trays, garbage pails, air conditioners and humidifiers.

Outdoor molds grow in moist shady areas. They are common in soil, decaying vegetation, compost piles, rotting wood and fallen leaves.  

Preventive Strategies

  • Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to maintain relative humidity below 50% and keep temperatures cool.
  • Air out closed spaces such as closets and bathrooms.
  • Vent bathrooms and clothes dryers to the outside.
  • Check faucets, pipes and ductwork for leaks.
  • When first turning on home or car air conditioners, leave the room or drive with the windows open for several minutes to allow mold spores to disperse.
  • Remove decaying debris from the yard, roof and gutters.
  • Avoid raking leaves, mowing lawns or working with peat, mulch, hay or dead wood. If you must do yard work, wear a mask and avoid working on hot, humid days.


Trees are the earliest pollen producers, releasing their pollen as early as January in the Southern states and as late as May or June in the Northern states.

Trees can aggravate your allergy whether or not they are on your property, since trees release large amounts of pollen that can be distributed miles away from the original source.

Of the 50,000 different kinds of trees, less than 100 have been shown to cause allergies. Most allergies are specific to one type of tree such as:
  • ash
  • box elder
  • cottonwood
  • elm
  • hickory
  • maple
  • olive
  • pecan
  • poplar
  • sycamore
  • walnut
  • willow
However, people do show cross-reactivity among trees in the alder, beech, birch and oak family, and the juniper and cedar family.

Ragweed Pollen

Ragweed and other weeds such as curly dock, lambs quarters, pigweed, plantain, sheep sorrel and sagebrush are some of the most prolific producers of pollen allergens.

Although the ragweed pollen season runs from August to November, ragweed pollen levels usually peak in Mid September in many areas in the country.

In addition, pollen counts are highest between 5 - 10 AM and on dry, hot and windy days.

Preventive Strategies

  • Avoid the outdoors between 5-10 AM. Save outside activities for late afternoon or after a heavy rain, when pollen levels are lower.
  • Keep windows in your home and car closed to lower exposure to pollen. To keep cool, use air conditioners and avoid using window and attic fans.
  • Be aware that pollen can also be transported indoors on people and pets.
  • Dry your clothes in an automatic dryer rather than hanging them outside. Otherwise pollen can collect on clothing and be carried indoors.

Pets + Animals

Many people think animal allergies are caused by the fur or feathers of their pet. In fact, allergies are actually aggravated by: 

  • proteins secreted by oil glands and shed as dander
  • proteins in saliva (which stick to fur when animals lick themselves)
  • aerosolized urine from rodents and guinea pigs

 Keep in mind that you can sneeze with and without your pet being present. Although an animal may be out of sight, their allergens are not. This is because pet allergens are carried on very small particles. As a result pet allergens can remain circulating in the air and remain on carpets and furniture for weeks and months after a pet is gone.

Preventive Strategies

  • Remove pets from your home if possible.
  • If pet removal is not possible, keep them out of bedrooms and confined to areas without carpets or upholstered furniture.
  • Wear a dust mask and gloves when near rodents.
  • After playing with your pet, wash your hands and clean your clothes to remove pet allergens.
  • Avoid contact with soiled litter cages.
  • Dust often with a damp cloth.

Dust Mites

Dust mites are tiny microscopic relatives of the spider and live on mattresses, bedding, upholstered furniture, carpets and curtains.

These tiny creatures feed on the flakes of skin that people and pets shed daily end they thrive in warm and humid environments.

No matter how clean a home is, dust mites cannot be totally eliminated. However, the number of mites can be reduced by following the suggestions below.

Preventive Strategies

  • Encase your mattress and pillows in dust-proof or allergen impermeable covers (available from specialty supply mail order companies, bedding and some department stores).
  • Wash all bedding and blankets once a week in hot water (at least 130 - 140F) to kill dust mites.
  • Replace wool or feathered bedding with synthetic materials and traditional stuffed animals with washable ones.
  • If possible, replace wall-to-wall carpets in bedrooms with bare floors (linoleum, tile or wood).
  • Use a damp mop or rag to remove dust. Never use a dry cloth since this just stirs up mite allergens.
  • Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to maintain relative humidity at about 50% or below.
  • Use a vacuum cleaner with either a double-layered micro filter bag or a HEPA filter to trap allergens that pass through a vacuum's exhaust.

For further information about asthma, contact:
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Office of Communications
P.O. Box 12233
Research Triangle Park, N.C. 27709

Asthma Alert Allergy Prevention Cigarettes  Cockroaches Dust Mites Food Grass House Dust Mold Spores Pets + Animals Ragweed Trees

Copyright 1999  All rights reserved.

Revised; July 07, 2005

Hit Counter Since 03/07/2004