Wake up and turn off the alarm clock sitting by the vanilla scented candle. Jump in the shower and grab the green apple infused shampoo and conditioner. Lather up with some cool mint soap and dry off with an April fresh towel. Slip on lavender scented clothes straight from the dryer and jump into the old car with the new car scent. Before leaving home every day, the average person may encounter a dozen different scented products. For some children, the plethora of scents may actually be triggers for asthma attacks.
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder defined by an obstructed airway and sometimes a wheezing sound or cough. For some patients, it is accompanied by a shortness of breath and a tightness in the chest. Overall, asthma is present in an estimated 9% of children and is responsible for approximately ten million doctor visits and over $50 billion in medical costs each year. Triggers include the more obvious things like cigarette smoke, but also the less noticeable causes like allergies.
Allergens are a broad umbrella covering dust and dust mites (sheets, carpets, and curtains), mold (house plants and leaks--windows, ceilings, or faucets), pets (inside and outside), air quality (heat sources, ventilation, and even aerosol cans), and smoke (from cigarettes, burning leaves, or bonfires). Strong odors and fumes dispense particles into the air which can trigger respiratory issues. Third hand smoke (nicotine residue left on clothing, hair, carpet, walls, etc.) is now also recognized as an asthma trigger.
A recent study on third hand smoke from the researchers at Berkeley National Laboratory measured metabolized nicotine levels in the bloodstream. The study covered children living in an apartment complex. Children living next door to smokers had nicotine levels comparable to children actually living with smokers. The results make sense to anyone walking by an empty designated smoking area. Smoke does not need to be visible for the evidence of cigarettes to be present.
Dr. Jane Gwinn, a Pediatric Pulmonologist with the Greenville Hospital System, focuses on family education as a part of treating children with respiratory issues. Being well informed is almost as important as following medical instructions. Dr. Gwinn recommends avoiding as many unscented products as possible, which includes perfumes and most lotions.
The scent of baby lotion can conjure up recollections of early motherhood for many women. The smell of popcorn may take some people to the movies and others to Little League. Life is made of memories, and many memories are tied to scents. Good health and happy memories may mean leaving the scents natural.