The Asthma Manifesto

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CONTENTS

The Main Idea

Who Am I?

My Credentials

What is the Purpose of this Document?

Why "The Asthma Manifesto"?

The Two Types of Asthmatics

What Asthma Reducing Topics are Discussed

To Sleep, Per Chance to Wheeze

Wearing Your Laundry can be Dangerous

Death by Sweeping

The, All Important, "Central Vacuuming Concept"

Smoking

Breathing Properly

Exercise Your Breathing Muscles

The Balloon and the Straw

Sulfites

Beware of Sulfur in the Air

Garlic

Roaches

Acid Reflux

Cats and Dogs and other Animals

Mold

The Fireplace

Irritants and Other Particulate

Cleaning Your Indoor Air

Finale

The Main Idea†††† Go to Top/CONTENTS †††††††††††††††††††††††† ††

Information for asthmatics on non-medicinal ideas, concepts, and devices that may help reduce the frequency and severity of wheezing episodes.† Anyone with new ideas that can incorporate in this document, contact me by e-mail at ASTHMAN1@AOL.COM

My address is:

THE ASTHMA MANIFESTO

1224 Gables Drive

ATLANTA, GA 30319

ATTN: NEIL ROSENBAUM

Anyhow, thank you for interest in this document and web site.†

Who Am I?†††† Go to Top/CONTENTS

Hi, My name is Neil and I have very mild asthma. Iíve been asthmatic for most of my life but for the past 10 years or so my asthma symptoms have been minimal. In my everyday life, I experience very minor wheezing at most for an hour maybe once or twice a month. I have an inhaler but used it only once in the past 3 months as of this writing.

Prior to understanding the causes that precipitate my wheezing, asthma was a major problem. I often experienced serious asthma attacks to the point where I considered a trip to the emergency room on a few occasions.

My CredentialsGo to Top/CONTENTS

First and foremost, I am not a medical doctor. I never was and I am not planning on becoming one! To cover my ass, I liberally use the phrase "See your doctor". My credentials are:

I have asthma. I have had asthma attacks. I understand the fear of asthma.

I have the logical mind of a scientist. In fact, I am a doctor (again not a medical doctor). I have a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley (1986).

What is the Purpose of this Document?Go to Top/CONTENTS

In this age of increasing asthma problems in the world population, I want to aid in the reduction in the overall frequency and severity of asthma.

Why "The Asthma Manifesto"?Go to Top/CONTENTS

The title of this document is named with reference to Ted "The Unabomber" Kaczynskiís manifesto and the weird association between me (Neil Rosenbaum) and the unabomber. To put it mildly, prior to the unabomberís capture, I expected to get a call from the FBI. A call due to a number of coincidences between the unabomber and myself. The following is a list of those coincidences:

I was born and raised in the Chicago area. It was thought (and later found true) that the Unabomber was associated with or lived in Chicago early in his life.

I was born in 1959, which is the end of the baby boomer era. The Unabomber was thought to be of baby boomer age.

When I was a kid, I got some enjoyment in trying to build things that explode. They never worked well however.

The Unabomber was associated with the University of California, Berkeley. In fact he was a professor there in the middle to late 70ís. I was a graduate student at Berkeley in the early 80ís.

The last part of my name is "baum" which is pronounced, at least by my family, as "bomb" (Rosenbaum is sometimes pronounced Rosenbowm).

I donít know if this part was a dream or not, but I remember hearing on TV that Ted Kaczynski once wrote a letter suggesting that the FBI "look for Nathan". My name is Neil and I was named after my grandfather whose name was "Nathan"

Well, now that the Unabomber has been captured, I can confidently say that I am not the him, I have never met him, and have never blown up or hurt anyone other than myself (my asthma probably arose, in part, from playing chemist in my early life). Furthermore, I am not anti-technology and I am writing this document on a laptop or desktop computer.

The Two Types of AsthmaticsGo to Top/CONTENTS

I like to categorize two types of people who experience asthma with the idea that this document can help both. The two types of asthma are:

  1. People who are normally symptom free but experience asthma when exposed to external stimuli (air born particles, foods, irritants, chemicals, etc..)

  2. People whose asthma symptoms can arise from no external stimuli (I believe this type of asthma is known as intrinsic asthma)

The point is simple, no matter which type of asthma, exposure to external stimuli will more likely make asthma symptoms worse, not better!!

The Asthma Reducing Topics Discussed Go to Top/CONTENTS

Foods and food additives that can cause asthma or make asthma worse (sulfites, carbonated beverages)

Acid Reflux

External Stimuli (dust, smoke, animal dander, animal feces, irritants, and other particulate)

How to reduce that external stimuli (The central vacuuming concept, smart cleaning, smart laundry, cleaning indoor air)

Breathing Exercises (The balloon and straw breathing exercise additions)

Upper Respiratory Infection (Garlic, exposure to irritants and particulate)

To Sleep, Per Chance to WheezeGo to Top/CONTENTS

Let me state two statements that are difficult to refute:

Fact 1: Particulate (dust, dander, cockroach and dust mite feces) in the air settles somewhat uniformly on all surfaces. Of course, some electrostatically charged surfaces (such as your television screen) will attract more particulate than some other surfaces. For the most part, if a layer of particulate settles on a glass table, which is easy to see, a similar layer has deposited on the surface of your bed or your chair or your couch.

Fact 2: You spend a significant percentage of your life (20-40% of the time) in your bed and another large percentage on your chair or couch.

So, if particulate has settled on all surfaces of your bed (pillows, bed surface, blankets), you spend a huge percentage of your life with your nose in a pile of allergens. If you are prone to asthma, this can be a problem. It may be a significant reason why you are having frequent asthma attacks (especially if you wake up at night with an asthma attack). To a slightly lesser extent one can say nearly the same about your favorite chair or couch even though you may not stuff your face in them!!

Another item that should be discussed is mold. Mold is another cause of asthma and reducing the possibility of mold buildup on beds, chairs, and couches.

What to do. What to do. Well, itís extremely simple. CLEAN YOUR BED AND THEN KEEP YOUR DAMN BED CLEAN!! Sleeping in a clean bed environment can possibly help your asthma and it certainly canít hurt. What ever is relevant to chairs and couches also applies.

What advice do I have for achieving a clean bed. A lot. First, by clean bed, I mean a minimum of settled particulate. Also, you want a situation where dust mite population and the associated buildup of dust mite feces within the bed is minimized. I really donít care if you have cookie crumbs and dried milk (and other disgusting stuff) on your bed. You are likely not allergic to such stuff. Note that food on your bed may give those dust mites a good dinner helping them to thrive. Therefore, it is a good idea that your bed be free of such dust mite food. But this is a secondary cause of asthma. Letís focus on the primary and list a number of things you can do:

Wash your bed clothes (sheets, pillowcases, etcÖ). When you wash them, use a minimum of detergent, or none at all. Really, all they need is a good hot rinse. As mentioned elsewhere in this document, residual chemicals from detergents and the like may also be irritants that can worsen your asthma.

You may use the "central vacuuming concept" and vacuum the surfaces of the bed you sleep in (see below to read about the "central vacuuming concept").

Shake out your blanket and pillowcases on a regular basis (every 1 to 3 days). Preferably, shake them out outside. You can shake them out inside but donít stay in the room to long after the shaking process (let the particulate settle). You may ask if shaking the blanket out inside helps since the particulate settles back on the item you shook. Well yes it does help since the amount of particulate on the blanket is less afterward than before since some of the particulate settles elsewhere. Of course, shaking the item out outside gets all the particulate out of the house.

Cover as many items with allergy impermeable covers as possible. This includes pillows, mattress, and box spring. If some bed item contains dust, dander, and dust mites, the covers will separate you from those allergens. Furthermore, dust mite food is your dead skin cells. Covering bed items will separate that food from the dust mites aiding to starve them to death. Poor, sons of bitches.

Make sure all pillows are hypoallergenic. Also, completely avoid pillows made of any type of animal matter such as down/bird feathers.

Keep the relative humidity in your room below 50% (preferably between 30-40%). Dust mites and mold thrive in humidity.

Wearing Your Laundry can be DangerousGo to Top/CONTENTS

Do you have asthma and do you go to the supermarket. Well I do and I found something interesting. I walk down the food aisles and no problem, but when I get to the aisle with all the detergents, thing change a little. The chemicals used to scent the detergents and other cleaners permeate the air in those aisles and irritate my lungs. This doesnít result in my getting an asthma attack, but it does cause me some respiratory discomfort. Avoiding heavy contact with such chemicals may help minimize your asthma. Hey, I will allow you to walk down the detergent aisle, but please donít spend too much time there.

One thing I noticed is that if too much detergent is used to wash laundry or if the washer does a poor rinse job, the leftover scents on the clothes can irritate your lungs. This can cause your asthma to be worse than it has to be (this concept can be carried over to bedclothes also). Hey, you only spend a minute or two in the detergent aisle, but you wear clothes and sleep in a bed many hours a day (unless you are one of those naked naturalists).

Let me tell you a story. One of those Neil case studies. I was at work and in my office. After one of my coworkers entered her office across from mine, I noticed strong scent in the air and my lungs became irritated. I did not suffer an asthma attack but that irritation caused my system to be closer to becoming asthmatic. Any further irritation would have brought an asthma attack on. What did this coworker do: All she did was use a little extra fabric softener/conditioner called "SNUGGLE" when she did her laundry.

To avoid such problems, I suggest considering the following:

When items are not that dirty, use no detergents, fabric softeners, or fabric conditioners or use a minimum of such chemicals. Also, use those scent free detergents if you can find em.

If you do use the recommended amount of detergent, think about running your clothes through a second wash cycle with no detergent and donít use any fabric conditioners in the dryer.

Avoid lots of bleach if possible. A small amount of chlorine gas, a very strong lung irritant, is released when using bleach in the wash. If you do use bleach, have good ventilation in the area of the washer and avoid spending time near the washer when it is running when bleach is in the system.

On the other hand, it is a good idea of using just a little bleach (1/4 to 1/8 recommended) when using bleach is appropriate. This will aid in killing any mold.

NEVER EVER MIX CHLORINE BLEACH AND AMMONIA!! Believe me on this one, Iím a Ph. D. Chemist. This applies to washing clothes or doing any other type of cleaning. Mixing such chemicals releases significant amounts of chlorine which can be highly irritating to the point where DEATH CAN RESULT (from asthma if you are asthmatic to pure poisoning and destruction of lung tissue).

Death by Sweeping†††† Go to Top/CONTENTS

Well here comes another Neil case study. For some reason, I moved my dryer. I noticed a large pile of dust. What to do!! Dust is bad!! I decided to, ever so gently, sweep up the dust to rid my house of those dust devils. A week later I came down with a major respiratory infection. Green and yellow phlegm and the alike and days of continuous wheezing unless I used inhaled asthma medication often.

What happened. Here are a few facts to begin the discussion:

You can have huge piles of dust in your environment. But if the dust stays in those piles, they wonít hurt you. Of course the problem is, they wonít.

You can have only the tiniest amount of dust in your house. If, however, you carefully gather that dust, place the little pile of dust in your hand, bring your hand to your mouth, and breathe it all in, you will be in big trouble.

The simple point is that it is the dust and other particulate that gets into your respiratory system that is significant. Of course, the more particulate in your environment, the more apt that particulate will get in your respiratory system.

So what happened with the above sweeping incident. Simple, no matter how carefully you sweep a pile of dust, an invisible dust cloud will be generated that you will breathe in unless precautions are taken.

When ridding your environment of settled particulate, to avoid taking that particulate into your system and getting sick, I suggest the following:

If you insist on sweeping, dusting, or wiping surfaces covered with dry settled particulate, wear a dust mask. Please be careful in fitting that mask since any air gaps will be a direct route propelling that particulate into your respiratory system.

The better the ventilation the better. Get airflow to eliminate the particulate that gets into the air. Open the windows and doors and use many fans to help input air and output air.

Effectively use the "central vacuum concept" laid out in the next section (or if you have a true central vacuum, use that). The particulate, of course, will be drawn completely out of your environment. Please do be careful since, with enough agitation, you can still generate a cloud of particulate that is breathed in.

Wet it down. Instead of dry sweeping and the alike, wet that pile of particulate down and mop it up instead. Again, be careful in the wetting process because you can generate a cloud of dust. Also, when dusting, use a wet or damp cloth instead of wiping it dry.

Let some other non-asthmatic person to clean it up. Also, stay away for a few hours to allow any particulate in the air settle.

The, All Important, "Central Vacuuming Concept"†††† Go to Top/CONTENTS

You have a typical vacuum cleaner (with no HEPA filter). What happens?? Well, small particulate gets sucked up into the bag. However, because that bag has holes larger than much of the particulate along with the possibility of tears and unintentional openings, particulate is blown into the air in your indoor environment. So in trying to clean your environment, you cause an acute super concentration of particulate in the air, which you will breathe in, and possibly cause an asthma attack and might lead to respiratory infection.

So what about vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters. Much better, however, in my opinion, keeping such system working can be expensive and a pain in the ass. The act of changing the filters may result in exposure to particulate. How well they truly work, I just donít know.

So what is the best way to vacuum with a minimum risk of creating clouds of particulate. Simple, install a central vacuum. This is where the vacuum unit is located in an isolated place out of your environment (preferably outside) and lines brought in, internally, that allows you to connect to your vacuum attachments. How much does this cost? I donít know but Iíll bet to add one to a new house you are building costs a few thousand dollars. To add one to an existing house, it probably costs much more (if that is possible).

Is there an inexpensive alternative. Yes there is and you can do it for $200 or less. The cost of a good conventional vacuum cleaner. Let me make it clear that I do not sell the items I am about to describe and I am not a spokesman for the component parts. This is no conflict of interest!! So please, do not send me orders for this great idea.

The concept is very simple. Get a high powered vacuum. I use a high horsepower shop vacuum. Attach a very long hose to it. A hose long enough so that you can place the shop vac outside while allowing you to use the vacuuming attachments throughout your house. The component parts are as follows:

High powered Shop Vacuum: The more horse power the better. High capacity is not necessary. In fact, if you can get the high horse power with low capacity do it, youíll get a bit more suction. Make sure you can attach a large diameter hose to vacuum (about 2 inch diameter). Avoid the restrictions of the 1 ľ " hose since you lose major suction power at when the hose line gets very long: One of these should cost $100 or less. Although I donít know if there is a way to connect hose to the thing, you may adapt one of those leaf blowers to be the vacuum power behind this contraption. Please note, again, the leaf blower must be kept outside (especially if it is gas powered. Gas powered contraptions emit carbon monoxide which can build up in your house and result in death!!)

Hose: You can buy a long hose or a number of hose extensions. For example, at Home Depot (and probably other similar establishments, discount stores, and hardware stores) you can by 6 foot length, 2" diameter hose extensions for about $15 each. You will need about 4-8 of these get a total hose length long enough to reach throughout your house. If you want to be innovative, you can find some other way to generate the hose extension and connect it to your shop vac and vacuum attachments. You may want to try a pool supply; they always have long hoses for whatever they are used for.

Reducer: Some way to connect the hose to the shop vac and vacuum attachments. Most likely, you will find what you need with the shop vac. If not, talk to the staff at the stores I mentioned in the above paragraph.

Smoking†††† Go to Top/CONTENTS

Let me first say that "I canít stand cigarettes and I donít much care for cigars or pipes either". I canít stand the smell of smoke (high or low concentration). Smoke makes me choke. Smokers turn me off. I donít like what smoking does to one's health. I donít like what smoking does to ones looks (brown teeth, purple lips, and etc..). Now you know where Iím coming from so I wonít go any further.

No matter how I feel about smoke, I can say with confidence that smoke will not help your asthma and will likely make it worse. First, smoke itself is a combination of particulate and chemicals that will damage and irritate lung tissue. A true mix of the stuff that precipitates asthma attacks. Long term, smoking results in coughing and hacking type diseases such as emphysema. Coughing and the like can initiate inflammation of lung and upper respiratory inflammation that can initiate an asthma attack or make a mild asthma attack major. So let me be blunt, here is my advice on smoking if you have asthma:

If you smoke and have asthma, QUIT!!

If you donít smoke but live in a situation where you are exposed to second hand smoke, eliminate that situation. Kick the offender out or make them smoke elsewhere.

If the offender wonít stop smoking or leave then ventilate your environment. Open the windows and use fans. I suggest that you do this on a cold winter day. Then you can use the cold as a bargaining chip. OK, Iíll leave the windows closed if you stop smoking in here.

Well, sorry to be so mean, itís just that I canít stand smoke!!

Breathing Properly†††† Go to Top/CONTENTS

As many of you know, both endurance and strength exercises improves muscle tone and the ability to perform tasks. Well, that just as true for breathing since it is muscle action that allows you to breath. Think of asthma as adding a heavy weight on the muscles used to breathe making it difficult to take in air. So it makes some sense that strengthening such muscles may aid in the ability to take in that air. Basically, learning to breathe properly and strengthening the breathing related muscles could help and probably wonít hurt your asthma.

First, what about proper breathing. When you breathe, does your chest heave in and out. If it does, you are probably breathing improperly and not efficiently. Correct breathing comes from your abdomen and not your chest. In other words, if you are operating your breathing muscles correctly, you should feel your abdomen (or stomach area) raise and lower as you breathe as opposed to your chest. There should be little motion of the chest area. If you are not breathing properly, I suggest you classically condition yourself back to more proper breathing. This can be done by consciously breathing properly everyday for a period of about 20-30 minutes. In other words, PRACTICE!! To practice breathing properly:

  1. Lay on your back on a flat surface such as your bed or the floor (if you are allergic to dust make sure that surface is clean following information above.)

  2. Place your hands on your stomach.

  3. Breathe in and out slowly in a manner where your stomach (and not your chest) expands inward and outward.

By performing proper breathing on a regular basis, you can condition yourself to properly breathe without thinking about it.

Exercise Your Breathing Muscles†††† Go to Top/CONTENTS

Beyond breathing properly, it may be beneficial to increase the strength of the muscles used for breathing. This may allow you to more easily take in air when you are under the spell of an asthma attack. How does one normally increase muscle strength?? Well, one lifts weights. How does lifting weights apply to breathing. First, I donít recommend placing a barbell on your stomach and do breathing reps. That may work but Iíve never heard of such a thing. The way to improve breathing muscle strength is to tax your breathing such that breathing becomes difficult in a controlled manner (of course not during an asthma attack). One way to do this is the following.

  1. Lay on your back on a flat surface such as your bed or the floor (if you are allergic to dust make sure that surface is clean following information above.)

  2. Take a deep breath slowly in and hold it for a few seconds.

  3. Then release the air slowly and during which (this is the important part) purse your lips so that the release of air is somewhat difficult.

  4. Breathe like this for 20-30 minutes per day for a few weeks.

The pursing of the lips while exhaling results in resistance for your breathing muscles making them work harder and eventually strengthening them. Will this help your asthma?? Maybe, but then again it probably wonít hurt.

The ideas for this breathing exercise was taken from a book I came across. The book is titles "How to Become a Former Asthmatic" written by Paul Sorvino. Yes, thatís Paul Sorvino the actor. Apparently, he had asthma and came across these breathing exercises that helped. I believe he smokes cigars. This kinda drives me nuts. If you have asthma, donít smoke anything!!

The Balloon and the Straw†††† Go to Top/CONTENTS

This section also involves breathing exercises similar to described in the section above. These, however are additions that I came up with myself. Basically, the idea is to add some resistance as you breathe to make your breathing muscles work. Well my idea is this: Replace the "pursing of the lips" mentioned in the above section by breathing through or into an implement which forces you to work your breathing. These implements are the balloon and the straw. Very simply, do the steps illustrated above in the "Exercise Your Breathing Muscles" section but replace the lip pursing by breathing through as fairly large diameter straw (both inhaling and exhaling) or blow up a balloon while exhaling. Interestingly, different diameter straws or balloons that vary in how difficult they are to blow up allows you to vary resistance. For example, you can start with a large diameter straw and, as your breathing muscles strengthen, you can go to more resistance by switching to a smaller diameter straw. Itís like adding weights to your barbell. With these breathing implements, breathe comfortably and donít strain. You can strain your breathing muscles just like any other muscle.

Sulfites†††† Go to Top/CONTENTS

You know, I was thinking of foods and food additives that cause asthma symptoms in me or are general food agents that cause asthma in asthmatic people. I can think of very few general agents. Please note that I am not talking about food allergies that affect specific people that results in asthma in those people.

The one food additive that can precipitate asthma in a large percentage of asthmatics are sulfites or sulfiting agents. I believe I am sulfite sensitive since, over my life, I was exposed to some form of sulfite without realizing it and experience asthma symptoms.

The main points of this section are simply that if your are asthmatic, you should avoid taking in sulfites directly into your body or taking chemicals into your body which then react to form sulfiting agents. Furthermore, many people do not know what foods contain sulfites and this information is given so you can avoid ingesting sulfites. Also, sulfites can be generated in your body from environmental factors and this will also be discussed in the next section so that sulfite in those forms can be avoided.

Sulfites in food: First, to gain some insight, it is worthwhile to know why sulfites are typically added to foods. The answer is simple, sulfites prevent discoloration in food. Sulfites are color preservatives. Sulfites are especially good for preventing light colored foods from becoming dark. For example, you know that if you cut an apple in half and leave it on the table, that apple will turn brown. If you cover the white flesh of the apple with a sulfiting agent, it wonít turn brown as fast, that apple will look appetizing for a longer period of time, and apple sellers will sell more apples (this is an example, fresh apples generally contain no sulfites). Thatís the main reason sulfites are added to food and this info can aid in identifying foods which may contain more or less sulfite.

First, how can you tell there are sulfiting agents in a food you purchase by reading the label. Usually, sulfiting agent will be listed close the end of the ingredient list on a food item. This is because there is very little sulfite in food and ingredients are listed in order of decreasing content. Now, the following listed ingredients correspond to sulfiting agents:

Sodium or Potassium Sulfite (or anything that says sulfite or sulfites)

Sodium or Potassium BiSulfite (or anything that says bisulfite or bisulfites)

Sodium or Potassium MetaBiSulfite (or anything that says Metabisulfite or Metabisulfites)

Anything that says sulfur dioxide or preserved with sulfur dioxide (or SO2)

Please read labels carefully since almost all foods contain sulfates and sulfates are not sulfites. Chemicals containing sulfates involve certain added vitamins and are generally harmless.

Now letís list foods that typically contain sulfiting agents. If you are at the store and are contemplating these foods, look at the label. For some of these foods, they may or may not contain sulfites. Also note that for a particular class of food, the lighter color varieties may contain more sulfite than darker color varieties (because discoloration is more noticeable in lighter varieties resulting in the need for more sulfite preservative or the need to add sulfiting agents in the first place). For example, white wine may contain more sulfiting agent than red wine. The sulfite food list below is approximately in order of decreasing sulfite concentration and/or chance of containing sulfites (the most notorious sulfite containing foods listed first):

Instant Potatoes (All boxes of potatoes that I have looked at contain sulfites)

Wines (be careful since you may not find sulfite on the label even if it contains sulfite. Also, I would suspect more sulfite in white or clear wines than in darker red wines)

Dried or Dehydrated Fruits (Label usually says "preserved with sulfur dioxide". Lighter fruits contain more sulfites than darker. Most notorious are apricots, apples, and pineapple. Light green raisins may contain sulfites but I never found sulfites in or had any problem with dark raisins)

Bottled Lemon and Lime Juice (But there are no sulfites in fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice!!)

Grape Juice and Sparkling Grape Juice(The light grape juice almost always contains sulfites, the darker grape juice probably does not but check the label)

Sparkling Apple Cider

Beer (Beer could contain sulfites but I have never had a problem after drinking the stuff. Please note that a sulfite solution is used to clean bottles in home beer preparation.)

Fig Newtons (Also different fruit Newtons such as apple Newtons or blueberry Newtons. These products may not contain high concentrations of sulfite)

Raisins from Green Grapes (I could not find sulfites in the more common dark raisins)

Frozen Seafood (especially shrimp and Lobster)

Canned Seafood (sulfites may be in some canned tuna and salmon)

New SugarFree Chocolate Syrup (I found sulfites in a new variety of sugarfree Hershey syrup that contains a new sugar replacement called Sunnett or AceSulfane Potassium.). Why sulfites are in this stuff, I just don't know!

Vinegar (Especially the special varieties like red wine vinegar. I checked the run of the mill Heinz clear vinegar and this had no sulfites according to the label)

Dehydrated Vegetables

Salads (Sulfites are banned for use on salad bar items but you never know!!)

Molasses

Other possible sulfite containing foods are (please check labels): sweet sauces, fresh mushrooms, maraschino cherries, fruit toppings, pickles, corn starch,

Beware of Sulfur in the Air†††† Go to Top/CONTENTS

Another way that sulfites can invade your body is through environmental exposure to gaseous sulfur dioxide. Hey, Iím a chemist so letís do a little chemistry. What happens when gaseous sulfur dioxide hits living organic matter (in this case the inside of your lungs). First, when gaseous sulfur dioxide hits moisture it dissolves in that moisture. The water and sulfur dioxide then chemically reacts to form sulfurous acid (basically hydrogen SULFITE) and possibly some sulfuric acid (a highly corrosive "eat away your lungs" kind of acid). Next, there is always salts (sodium or potassium chloride) floating with that moisture in your lungs. So, the sulfurous acid forms sodium or potassium sulfites or bisulfites. So, here we have a double whammy on the asthma front:

  1. Direct formation of sulfites in your lungs. If you are sulfite sensitive, breathing sulfur dioxide is worse than ingesting sulfites if food (sulfite molecule for sulfite molecule). This is because breathing sulfur dioxide will likely be a faster mechanism for absorbing sulfite into your system than ingesting foods with sulfites.

  2. Sulfurous Acid is a major irritant. Breathing in sulfur dioxide will form sulfurous and some sulfuric acid in your lungs. These are the acids that, at high concentration, cause facial disfigurement. Therefore, they can eat away or at least irritate delicate lung tissue.

By breathing in sulfur dioxide, both the sulfites and acid effects can (and probably will) initiate or exasperate asthma. The amount of sulfur dioxide air pollution generally is too low to be problematic (I believe the sulfur dioxide concentration in the air in big cities actually decreased in the last 20 years). There is, however, some situations you should avoid if your are asthmatic. They are:

On heavily polluted days, sulfur dioxide levels in the air may be high so you may want to stay in.

Some industries produce local air pollution high in sulfur dioxide. These include coal burning businesses and plants and steel mills. I always felt bad when driving through Gary Indiana in the summertime many years ago (they used to have many steel mills).

Stay away from natural sulfur producing entities such as geothermal areas which release steam containing sulfur, hot springs, volcanoes (especially erupting volcanoes) and tar pits.

Be careful with products that burn using sulfur containing fuel. For example matches (the smoke contains sulfur dioxide). The most notorious sulfur dioxide producer are common flares used to flag vehicular accidents and other street signals.. Smoke from flares contains huge amounts of sulfur dioxide so avoid breathing flare smoke in.

Fireworks. Again, lots of sulfur in the explosives used in fireworks so stay down wind when using or viewing fireworks.

GarlicGo to Top/CONTENTS

In the alternative medicine world, garlic is revered as having almost magical health attributes.† These include antibiotic action, lowering blood fat and cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, removing toxins from the body, and cleaning out cancer causing chemicals from your body.† Does garlic do as claimed?† I don't know.† I only say it's cheap, especially compared to getting sick.† Furthermore, the chance garlic can hurt you is minimal.† I recently asked my doctor (a very contemporary practitioner) about the benefits of garlic.† His answer was "Well, it'll make your spaghetti taste better."

I take the point of view that garlic may have some medicinal use and that it's cheap and harmless.† The garlic action that has relevance to asthma is its possible antibiotic action.† One of the prime asthma triggers is respiratory infections of the sinuses, air channels, and lungs.† If ingesting garlic creates an ongoing antibiotic action in the body, it may prevent or at least reduce the frequency of infection.

When I was younger, I experience respiratory infections 2 to 3 times per year.† Now I experience them less that once per year.† One of the things I do is consume garlic on an ongoing basis.† Is it the garlic that helps, I don't know.† Since I implemented many of the other concepts in this document for myself, it may not be the garlic that helped but all of the other concepts.† Again, the garlic is cheap and never appeared to harm me!!

What chemicals in garlic supposedly gives it its medicinal attributes.† The answer is sulfur or more concisely specific sulfur compounds in garlic.† Please don't confuse this with sulfites, it is not.† Sulfur in garlic is not harmful since NO sulfites are generated.† Specifically, garlic contains a major beneficial sulfur compound called alliin which is odorless.† the odorless quality of alliin is the reason whole garlic does not have a strong odor.† When fresh garlic is put under high pressure (such as crushing) the alliin is chemically transformed into other chemical species.† The main species formed is allicin along with other daughter compounds which cause the familiar pungent garlic odor.† It is supposedly the allicin and its daughter compounds that are medicinally beneficial.† Therefore, medically beneficial garlic come in the form of crushed garlic or processed garlic containing alliin that can be converted to allicin after ingestion.

The following table shows what is considered best and worst forms of garlic to consume for health benefits:

Best: Crushed uncooked fresh garlic eaten straight or added to food without excessive heating.† The obvious problem with this is unrelenting garlic breath. Next Worst: Consuming uncrushed pieces of fresh garlic.† Consuming garlic in this form does not allow the alliin to form allicin in your system reducing garlic's medicinal effect.
Next Best:† Any form of garlic pills and capsules (de-odorized OK too).† Manufacturing of such pills and capsules supposedly do not harm the beneficial chemicals in garlic to a large degree.† Basically, the alliin remains intact and is transformed to beneficial allicin on ingestion. Worst: Garlic (especially uncrushed garlic) that has been cooked to oblivion such as frying garlic in oil at high temperature.† Tastes good but the health benefits from beneficial chemicals in the garlic has been reduced.

Roaches†††† Go to Top/CONTENTS

Cockroaches are our friends. NOT! Cockroaches themselves do not pose an asthma problem. Unfortunately, their feces (DooDoo) do. Cockroach feces (which by the way are not that small and are clearly visible) dry up over the course of time and powderize into small particles (particulate again) and get into the indoor air you breathe. This cockroach agent is considered to be a major asthma trigger. Therefore, any indoor facility that has a roach problem could also be a haven for asthma for those susceptible.

The simple answer is to get rid of the both the roaches and the roach droppings. Letís address the roaches first. I am not an expert exterminator so I cannot give but a few choice pieces of advice.

Call a qualified exterminator if the roach problem is out of control. Find an exterminator that can deal with the fact you are asthmatic. Why, because some bug killing agents can also be asthma triggers. Let me tell you about a news story on cockroaches in housing projects I saw on TV. They showed the exterminator spray bug-killing juice on individual roaches. A roach was on the door, so they sprayed it. Not only does this not kill all the roaches in the house, the house then becomes and toxic chemical wasteland of bug killer. Not good.

If you have a minor roach problem and you want to killíem yourself, use safe bug killing agents. For example, I believe Boric acid powder is deadly to roaches and, as far as I know, is not an asthma trigger. Another suggestion, is use roach bait and/or those roach motels which trap roaches on some sticky substance.

Now, letís talk about roach droppings, feces, or doodoo. Unfortunately, roaches tend to live in the cracks, crevasses, and behind walls. They defecate there also. Well, there is nothing you can really do to effectively eliminate that fecal matter short of tearing up your house. Fortunately, as mentioned before, it is the stuff that you take in that is the problem and the hidden fecal matter basically stays hidden and probably wonít be a problem. During the night, however, roaches tend to roam around in your house. Since most of them are not house broken, they will defecate in your house. Also, some roaches decide to live in more open areas (covered places in drawers for example) and they defecate there also. Therefore, here are a few suggestions to aid in eliminating accessible roach feces.

  1. First locate non-hidden roach feces in your house. The roach feces look like little tiny rat droppings. The size of the droppings are about a millimeter (1/30 of an inch) for a large roach or smaller.

  2. Then clean the droppings carefully in a way that does not allow you to breathe in any roach feces particulate that might have formed. Some suggestions include using a vacuum (preferably incorporating the "central vacuuming concept" illustrated above so all feces are carried outside). Carefully wet the area down prior to cleaning it up again to avoid a cloud of feces particulate getting into the air.

  3. If you have roaches, they may have defecated anywhere in your house so a thorough vacuuming of the entire indoors is recommended. Again, in a way that does not expose you to clouds of particulate.

Anyway, thatís it for roach feces. Itís time to go on to more pleasant subjects.

Acid Reflux†††† Go to Top/CONTENTS

Recent medical reporting indicated that asthmatic persons having acid reflux (regurgitation of acid in the stomach up into your mouth and esophagus) have worse asthma than persons with no acid reflux problem. Does this make sense. Sure it does. Letís consider what happens when acid in your stomach comes up. First, it is an mild acid and is somewhat irritating to all tissue it comes in contact with. Well, you bring the acid up and small amounts get into your airways causing irritation and probably minor inflammation. In an asthmatic, thatís part of asthma. Swelling or inflammation of any breathing related tissue might result in triggering worse asthma. Another point is that the acid tends to cause minor spasms of the respiratory system causing coughing and choking . This is a secondary asthma trigger.

What to do!! If you experience acid reflux and you are asthmatic, SEE YOUR DOCTOR!!. Again, since I am not a medical doctor, I will not dish out any medical advice!!

Cats and Dogs and other Animals†††† Go to Top/CONTENTS

First, unlike smoking, I love all animals, especially dogs. Unfortunately, animals are one of the biggest allergy and asthma triggers and asthma causes around. I am horribly allergic to cats and probably would need to go to the emergency room with a major asthma attack after a few hours of exposure to cats, even with asthma medicine in hand!!

First, let us get a little understanding about what animal allergies are all about. No one is allergic to the "presence" of the animal, it is agents released from the animal that are taken into your system that cause the problem. Eliminating or minimizing those agents will improve your asthma. What are the agents? The primary agent is thought to be animal saliva. How can saliva get into your system. Easy!! The animal licks itself (a lot by the way!!) and the saliva on the fur dries. The dried saliva residual forms very tiny particles which blows into the air with movement of the animal and from indoor air currents. Other possible animal related asthma triggers include dandruff (skin cells), urine, and oils. Again, these agents come in the form of particulate released into the indoor air from the animal. By the way, you are not actually allergic to the animal hair. It is the agents mentioned above that cling to the hair or fur that cause the allergy and asthma!

How allergic you are to your pet depends on a number of factors including:

The size of the pet. Basically, the larger the pet, the more surface area and more saliva produced and hence the greater the allergy for all other factors being equal.

The activity of the pet. If you have an old cat that stays in one place all day, allergen doesnít get much of a chance to spread in the house. On the other hand, if you have a wild kitten, clouds of cat allergen proliferate through the house rapidly.

The type of pet. Allergy severity is both type of animal dependent (cat, dog, horse, rabbit, etc) and breed variation dependent (cocker, German Shepherd, Beagle, etc.).

Hair vs fur. Hair breeds (most dog breeds) shed and the shedding hair increases the spread of allergen. Fur dogs, such as poodles and schnauzers, do not shed as much and may cause less severe allergy.

Here are a few suggestions if you are allergic to cats, dogs, or other animals:

Unfortunately the best advice I can give is to eliminate that animal from your indoor environment (please find it a good home!!) and then thoroughly clean your indoor environment because that asthma causing animal agent is still there!!

Avoid going to other households that contain animals you are allergic to.

Most likely of course, if you have a pet, you love that pet and are going to keep that pet. So what other steps can be taken to minimize allergy and asthma symptoms if you want to keep a pet.

Have the pet live outdoors and, if necessary, buy or build a shelter for the petís comfort in case of bad weather

Give the pet itís own room in the house and donít let the pet wander from that room to other parts of the house. Also, insure that airflow is such that air from the petís room does not travel into other parts of the house.

If possible, keep that petís living space separate (or as separate as possible) from yours. Suggestions are:

Air out your indoor space on a regular basis. This means open doors and windows and use fans to replace all indoor air with outdoor air.

Keep the pet from entering the living space you spend the most time in such as the bedroom (especially!!!), living room, and/or den. Do not allow the pet on your bed or couch for reasons stated previously under the "To Sleep, Per Chance to Wheeze" section.

Clean your pet in a way that minimizes the amount of allergen (dried saliva and the like) produced on the petís body. The idea is this, when you wash the pet, the allergens basically go down with the drain. Therefore, washing your pet often will minimize the amount of allergen that leaves your pet and goes into your indoor environment. Please contact your veterinarian to find out how often you can wash your pet without causing harm to the pet. Another point is, you do not have to do a big time bath (with tons of irritating soap), all that is needed is a good rinse. Itís also better if a non-allergic person does the washing and washing the pet outside is better than washing inside.

Vacuum the pet. If the pet tolerates being vacuumed and you are not endangering the pet (sucking up the pet or pet parts with the vacuum), vacuuming their hair or fur can eliminate significant amounts of allergen on their bodies preventing that allergen from getting into the indoor environment. Again we come to that "Central Vacuuming Principle" where you must insure that you are not exposed to the animal allergen containing vacuum exhaust!!

MoldGo to Top/CONTENTS

Mold is another trigger for asthma.† Similar to dust, mold on surfaces cannot hurt you.† Mold hurts you when mold spores become airborne and gets into your respiratory system. This happens in your indoor environment when mold builds up on surfaces, dries up and powderizes into small clusters of mold spores and then becomes airborne from weak air currents in the indoor environment.† Preventing asthma from mold involves reducing the formation of mold on indoor surfaces.† Mold likes to form in warm humid areas.† Some the areas mold forms are refrigerators, humidifiers, air conditioners, window sills, kitchen surfaces, inside cabinets and drawers, basements, and especially bathroom surfaces (bathtub, shower curtains, toilet, and sink).† Reducing mold in such places will aid in eliminating mold induced asthma.† Some suggestions are:

Do not let your indoor temperature get too high (keep temp under 85oF) and avoid high humidity (keep relative humidity under 50%).

For surfaces that show observable mold, wet down with detergent solution, clean to remove mold and dry thoroughly afterward.† It is important to wet that mold sufficiently that no mold spores become airborne.†

Clean and dry surfaces that do not show observable mold to prevent mold formation.

One of the best cleaning agents that kills mold in its tracks is bleach yet remember that chlorine released from bleach solutions can also be an asthma trigger.† After cleaning surfaces using bleach free cleaners it is worthwhile to follow with a rinsing with a chlorine bleach solution.† I suggest using a detergent (non ammonia containing detergent) and very dilute chlorine bleach solution in water.† I suggest using less than 4 ounces of bleach per gallon of water.† Cover surfaces with the bleach solution for about 20 minutes.† When using any bleach solution, use adequate ventilation (open windows, use fans, generate cross ventilation).† Also, stay away from the room in question while being treated with bleach solution.

Try some of the products specifically made to kill mold and prevent mold buildup.† I found AllerTechģ Mold Remover and AllerTechģ Mold Preventer which may be useful (see the AllerTech web site for more info).† Please note that I have no personal or financial association to this company and do not know of the effectiveness of their products).† They also sell other asthma product such as pillow cases.

The Fireplace†††† Go to Top/CONTENTS

The wood burning in your fireplace does emit some burn product into your indoor air no matter how well ventilated your house is. Unfortunately, particulate and chemicals released from burning items such as wood and paper are asthma triggers. Therefore, minimize or completely stop use of the fireplace if you are prone to asthma. If you insist on burning wood, then I suggest use of a fan or any other device that spreads diffuses any released particulate. If possible, bring in a expert to optimize the ventilation system for the fireplace.

Irritants and Other Particulate†††† Go to Top/CONTENTS

I may have mentioned a few of these above but itís worth listing them again.

Irritants:

Noxious and irritating gases: chlorine (from bleach and again never mix bleach and ammonia!!), nitrogen oxide and dioxide (generally due to air pollution). Note that those mold and mildew tile cleaner (such as Tilex) contains chlorine bleach and releases significant amounts of chlorine on use.

Strong odors: Perfumes and colognes, Perfume agents in detergents and fabric softeners, scented soaps, household cleaners, paints, varnish, and paint thinners, toilet cleaners, gasoline fumes.

Particulate:

Waste from power tools (wood, metal dust and particulate)

Powders: Talcum powder and powder sprays

Aerosols: Any spray (any aerosol generates a local cloud of particulate. Besides being irritating, some of the chemicals used are sprays may be asthma triggers.). Especially be careful of oven cleaners, use may result in breathing lye in aerosol form (use a mask!!!)

Smoke: From any source including smoking materials, fires, cooking, burned engine oil, diesel exhaust, charcoal grills.

Cleaning Your Indoor Air†††† Go to Top/CONTENTS

One of the best ways to minimize your asthma symptoms is to reduce the amount of particulate that typically is in the indoor air you spend most of the time in. We talked a lot about reducing the settled particulate in your environment that could fly into your indoor air environment. This of course still holds but there will always be some particulate in the air no matter how clean your indoor environment is. To further eliminate particulate getting into your system, you can reduce particulate in the air on the fly. This can be done in a number of ways that can be executed in unison. These are

Open your doors and windows and allow the outdoor air inside. Of course, if you have outdoor allergies, I would avoid this option when outdoor allergies are present.

If you have a central air conditioning and heating system, use high quality filters and change them when necessary.

Use appropriate external air filtering systems

Letís discuss these concepts. First, I cannot say too much more about the outdoor air except, in the middle of winter in the north, donít freeze yourself to death!!

What about high quality filtration for you air conditioning and heating system. The typical cheap filters work but are not very efficient in reducing particulate. In fact, these cheap filters will reduce the particulate in a single volume of particulate containing air by about 50%. This is certainly better than nothing but you can do better. Even though they are significantly more expensive, I suggest using HEPA or electrostatic filters. These reduce the particulate in a volume of air by 90-99% in a single pass. Another benefit of this level of particulate removal is that the particulate removed by the filter never gets in to the duct system. This is beneficial because the chance of particulate building up in the duct system over time is significantly reduced.

I personally use one of those electrostatic filters you, sort of, have to put together yourself. It cost me about $20 but I do not have to change it, I simply vacuum (using that "central vacuuming" concept again) it once a year and take it apart and wash after about 3 years. One interesting thing is that there is never any particulate buildup on the filter. Because of the concepts described above that I use, the particulate level in my home is very low!!

What about external particulate reducing devices. I approve of them as long as they work and do not produce anything that can hurt you. Some can, read on!! I guess the best type of external particulate reducing device uses similar technology as in your air filter and has good volume throughput. So those devices using electrostatic or HEPA filters are the ones I recommend. Although I donít need one since my place is so particulate free, I have an external particulate removing device from Envirocaire (I believe now made by Honeywell) and itís pretty good. Check one out and compare any other similar device to that one.

There is a few devices I will caution you about. The devices I worry most about are those that create ions (which can produce ozone) or similar devices that actually state they produce ozone. As you know from your local weather report, high ozone outside causes respiratory distress or irritation (that dreaded Ozone alert!!). Thatís true inside too. Whatís the theory behind such devices. Itís pretty simple. If ions (or charged molecules) are expelled by a device into the air, those ions attach to particulate and create charged particulate. Charged particulate are then attracted to other charged surfaces in your environment (like walls) and the particulate in the air is attracted to the wall and is lost from your indoor environment. Its just like rubbing a balloon on your head, charging it, which then sticks or is attracted to the wall. Thatís a fine concept but if it produced ozone, the benefit from reduced particulate is lost to the lung irritation from the Ozone.

The other devices are probably not damaging to you but Iím not sure they work to reduce indoor particulate effectively. At the very least, I need proof!! What Iím talking about is electrostatic devices. How do these work, similar to the above ion devices but kind of opposite. You see, some of the particulate in your environment is charged. The electrostatic device is highly charged and the charged particulate in your environment is attracted to the electrostatic device. The problem I see is that these devices are small and only attract particulate in close vicinity to them. As I see it, it would be difficult, with the small surface area of these devices and the lack of flow, to attract a large percentage of your indoor particulate. Have you ever noticed that your TV and especially your TV screen seems to get more dusty than other vertical surfaced. Thatís because it is electrostatically charged. These devices work the same way. My question is, do these devices work any better than an electrostatically charged TV screen?† If not, just keep your TV clean and it may do just as good a job.

FinaleGo to Top/CONTENTS

Well thatís about it so let me reiterate a few things.† First, I hope you believe my reasons for writing this document.† I don't think my money making reason can be easily refuted.† I really would like to help reduce the frequency and severity of asthma in this world.† Recently, I saw one of those news magazine shows which had a segment on asthma.† The basic idea of the segment is that the frequency and severity of asthma can be reduced by "cleaning ones indoor environment".† The segment did not, however, give much useful information on how to safely achieve such a clean environment. This document indicates the same philosophy and gives you some good ideas on how to achieve it.††

Anyhow, thank you for interest in this document and web site. You can contact me by e-mail at ASTHMAN1@AOL.COM if you have comments or other good ideas on reducing asthma symptoms.† My address is:

THE ASTHMA MANIFESTO

1224 Gables Drive

ATLANTA, GA 30319

ATTN: NEIL ROSENBAUM