The air we breathe

By: Alison Dunn May 04, 2010
  Editorial

When I was a kid, I had this crazy theory that only redheads had asthma.

Where I came up with this theory I don't know, but I knew about three kids who had asthma and needed inhalers, and all three of them had red hair. Somehow in my seven-year-old mind, I came to associate having red hair with having asthma.

Of course, I now realize how silly I was. In reality, asthma and allergies strike nearly one in four Canadians, according to the Asthma Society of Canada. It can affect people of all races and ages, and there is no cure.

The things that make asthma worse aren't the same for everyone. The Asthma Society says there are two different types of triggers: allergic and non-allergic. The allergic triggers include animal allergens, dust mites, pollens, moulds, cockroaches and even food. Non-allergic triggers are things like tobacco smoke, colds, chest infections, temperature and weather changes, exercise fumes and even emotional things like stress, excitement and fear.

That's why it's so important to be aware of these asthma triggers and do what we can to mitigate some of the risks. I know a number of both adults and children with asthma, and I've seen for myself that an asthma attack is terrifying. Imagine having your airway become inflamed and swollen, start constricting, and suddenly you can't breathe. It's like a nightmare come to life. And yet it's a nightmare asthma sufferers live with on a regular basis.

How can you help? Well, even if you don't have asthma, you should check out the Asthma Society of Canada's new website, the Asthma and Allergy Friendly Certification Program. This site has tons of great tips, tools and downloads that can help you make your home more suitable for people suffering from asthma and allergies.

The certification program itself lets you easily find products that have been certified as asthma and allergy friendly. There are the products you would normally expect, like cleaning products, bedding, vacuum cleaners and flooring, but did you know you can also get asthma-friendly paint, toys and washing machines?

Next time you're in the market for a home improvement or new appliance, why not take a quick look to see if the product you've chose is asthma and allergy friendly? It only takes a minute or two to do the research – but for an asthma or allergy sufferer, that choice could mean the difference between life and death.

A journalist with more than 10 years experience, Alison’s work has appeared in a number of top Canadian publications, including glow, Oxygen, Canadian Running and more. She is the former editor of a number of well-respected Canadian and American trade journals and recipient of a Kenneth R. Wilson Gold Award of Excellence in feature article writing. She is a part-time faculty member at Sheridan College’s journalism department, as well as an avid runner and fitness enthusiast.