According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, asthma results in 439,000 hospitalizations and 1.8 million emergency room visits annually.
Asthma is more prevalent in children than in adults, and higher in females than males.
Following good indoor environmental quality practices, asthma can be managed in schools, regardless of size.
Animal and Pest Allergens:
Classrooms often have classroom pets and may also have animals used for science projects. Gerbils, birds, cats, dogs, mice and rats can trigger asthma. While animal dander is the most thought of contaminant, their urine and saliva may also trigger asthma episodes or allergic reactions all because of the proteins which act as the allergen.
Classroom pets can be direct, daily exposure to the animal’s dander and bodily ﬂuids. The allergens can travel throughout the school in the air and on the clothing of staff and children who handle the animals.
Students with known allergies must limit exposure to the animals.
Cockroaches and other pests, such as rats and mice that are not kept as classroom pets, carry certain proteins that act as allergens in the waste products and saliva.
Plumbing leaks, moisture problems, and improper food storage practices can result in pest problems.
To manage and avoid these problems, it is important to control water and food sources:
- Look for signs of pests.
- Do not leave food, water or garbage exposed.
- Remove pest pathways and shelters.
- Track cockroach populations by using small sticky traps or monitoring traps that contain no pesticide.
- Use pest control products such as poison baits, traps and pesticide sprays (as needed and as allowed by state law. Use pesticide sprays in classrooms only as a last resort.)
What’s dangerous about mold are the microscopic reproductive spores. The mold spores land and grow. When mold growth can cause or exacerbate health problems such as aspergillosis, allergic reactions that include sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash, asthma exacerbations and other respiratory complaints.
Excessive moisture or water indoors causes mold growth. Moisture problems in school buildings can be caused by roof and plumbing leaks, condensation, excess humidity, changes in building construction practices, delayed or insufﬁcient maintenance, and more. Trailers and portable classrooms frequently have issues with moisture and mold. If the mold growth is cleaned up but the spores are not remediated from the air, the mold will most likely grow again when the spores land. If absorbent materials such as ceiling tiles and carpeting become wet, they most likely have to be discarded.
Prevent Mold Growth:
- Reduce indoor humidity.
- Prevent condensation with the proper use of insulation and ventilation.
- Routinely inspect the building for signs of mold, moisture, leaks or spills, and respond promptly if found.
Indoor Air Contaminants:
Indoor pollution that can be asthma triggers include secondhand smoke, school bus diesel exhaust, off-gassing of furnishings and ﬂooring, cleaning chemicals, and more. The most effective solution is to eliminate the sources of the contaminants.
School districts must develop and adhere to comprehensive tobacco-free school policies. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that exposure to secondhand smoke exacerbates asthma symptoms in 200,000 to 1,000,000 children.
No-idling policies near the school building can reduce school bus exhaust from entering the building.
Choosing the least-toxic cleaning methods and selecting the right products can reduce the asthma triggers related to cleaning chemicals.
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