Mounting evidence suggests that indoor allergens and irritants contribute to childhood asthma. National asthma guidelines highlight the importance of their reduction as part of comprehensive asthma treatment.
To assess the prevalence of potential environmental triggers, to identify risk factors for such exposures, and to determine whether prior parental education about trigger avoidance is associated with fewer such exposures.
Setting and Patients
Children with asthma in practices affiliated with 3 managed care organizations.
Parents of 638 children, aged 3 to 15 years, were interviewed on enrollment in a randomized trial of asthma care improvement strategies. Parents reported recent asthma symptoms and exposures to potential environmental triggers. Multivariate models were used to identify specific demographic risk factors for environmental exposures and to determine if prior education was associated with fewer such exposures.
Exposures to environmental triggers were frequent: 30% of households had a smoker, 18% had household pests, and 59% had furry pets. Other exposures included bedroom carpeting (78%) and forced-air heat (58%). Most children did not have mattress (65%) or pillow (84%) covers. Of the parents, 45% reported ever receiving written instructions regarding trigger avoidance and 11% reported them given in the past year. However, 42% reported discussing triggers in the home environment with a clinician in the past 6 months. In multivariate models, predictors of smoking at home included low annual family income and lower parental educational attainment. Dog ownership was associated with low educational attainment, and dog and cat ownership were less likely with black race. Reports of pests were increased for black children compared with white children. Black race was associated with lower rates of other exposures, including bedroom carpeting. After controlling for potential confounders, there was no association of reduced exposures with prior receipt of environmental control instructions.
Exposure to potential environmental triggers is common, and recommended trigger avoidance measures are infrequently adopted. While specific exposures may vary with demographic and socioeconomic variables, all children are at risk. New methods for educating parents to reduce such exposures should be tested.