Adam is a healthy and happy little boy who lives by the sea with his mum, dad and big sister. When he was just a year old his mum noticed that he had woken up with a slight noise coming from his chest, which she thought could be the start of a chest infection. It was Saturday morning and she booked an appointment to see a doctor. He couldn’t hear any sound at that time, but prescribed an inhaler. The family collected the inhaler and took Adam home. Adam became sleepy and his breathing changed again. This time an ambulance was called – Adam was only a year old and the paramedics said that he was working hard to breath. He was rushed by ambulance to the hospital where the doctors gave him oxygen and steroids until the next day, when he woke up as if nothing had happened. When his mum asked what had caused this she was told it was just a virus and that there were other children who had been brought in with the same thing. Adam was put on daily medication alongside inhalers. A few months later Adam became asthmatic during the night. His symptoms were managed with the inhaler and his parents stayed up through the night to monitor him. What had caused this? They had temporarily been using a different vacuum. Adam’s mum suspected that Adam had a dust allergy. She insisted that he be allergy tested. His results came back – He was highly allergic to dust mites (top of the scale). His mum had already taken steps to improve things for Adam and had seen excellent results. Cushions were removed from the home. The vacuum was upgraded to one that had a Hepa filter so that the tiny dust mite faeces that cause the reaction were not blown back onto the carpet when vacuuming. The mattresses were put into thick cotton anti-allergy bags. Duvets and pillows were covered in thick cotton antiallergy protectors. Beds were made and then opened up to be aired during the day. Surfaces were cleaned with damp cloths rather than dusters. His sister’s soft toys, the sofa and even the curtains were vacuumed too.
Everything was going well, then his mum got a call from his nursery to say that Adam had become asthmatic and they had given him his inhaler. His mum thought about this. Asthma is an allergy response – what had caused it? The nursery used low filtration vacuum cleaners. She asked that they upgrade them to one with a Hepa filter. Again Adam’s symptoms went away. Adam’s mum is a biology teacher at the local secondary school, she teaches that asthma is an allergy response as part of the GCSE curriculum – but most children are not allergy tested in this country, they are simply given inhalers. She recalls picking her daughter up on the last day of the school year and seeing a teacher go round and hand back inhalers from a box to parents. This condition is common and yet it can have devastating consequences. Teachers are well informed about food and bee sting allergies, but when it comes to air borne allergies there is an obvious gap in knowledge. She says that when you have experienced your child unresponsive and struggling to breath in hospital you get a wake up call that this is serious. Knowledge is power and as such people need to be given the information that they need to make positive changes.