By Mary Ann Crispin and Joanna Bateman, Kenner Army Health ClinicAugust 18, 2016
FORT LEE, Va. (Aug. 18, 2016) -- From the beaches along the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean to the wilderness of the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia offers breathtaking scenery and many opportunities for outdoor adventure.
Indoor and outdoor air, however, may contain irritants and substances that can threaten a person's health, especially those with asthma and allergies. Allergies cause the body to overreact to substances called allergens. The most common allergy "triggers" include pollen, chemicals or fragrances. Symptoms include sneezing, nasal congestion and itchy, watery eyes.
It is a disease of the lungs in which the airways become blocked or narrowed causing difficulty with breathing. For someone with asthma, a reaction to an allergen can worsen symptoms. People are particularly sensitive to outdoor air pollutants. Asthma can be controlled by taking medication as prescribed by a physician and by staying away from things that trigger an attack.
The American Academy of Allergy and Immunology and the American Lung Association offer the following suggestions for promoting a healthier environment:
• Make sure no one smokes indoors.
• Damp areas promote the growth of mold. Eliminate sources of moisture by fixing leaks and using exhaust fans when showering, cooking or washing dishes.
• Keep humidity levels below 50 percent.
• Ensure anything that burns gas (i.e. stove, dryer, water heater and fireplace) is vented to the outdoors.
• Pollen and mold from outdoors can enter the home through open doors, windows and vents. Close windows; use air filters or air conditioning.
• Clean surfaces in the home weekly with a damp cloth and HEPA-filtered vacuum.
• Restrict pets.
• Eliminate rugs. Hard floor surfaces are easier to clean.
• Don't use scented candles or fragrance deodorizers.
• Monitor the air quality index forecast in your area when planning outdoor activities.
• Stay indoors when the pollen count or humidity is high.
• Minimize early morning activities (generally between the hours of 5-10 a.m.), when pollen is usually produced.
• Do not mow lawns or be around freshly cut grass; mowing stirs up mold and pollen.
• Do not rake leaves. This also will stir up mold.
• Do not hang clothing out on the line to dry; pollen and mold may collect on them.
• Good ventilation is required when using cleaning products; do not mix chemicals.
• Use medications as prescribed. Contact your provider for more information about controller medications versus quick-relief medicine.
• Keep controller medications available and up to date.
• Review immunizations with providers. Many regular immunizations can lend protection to those with lung conditions.
• Make an Asthma Action Plan -- include name, emergency contact information, contact information for your health care provider, asthma severity classification and a list of known triggers that may cause an asthma attack.
• Be mindful of co-workers with asthma and allergies by limiting strong perfumes, colognes and surface dust. Other workplace culprits include air fresheners and scented lotions.
The ALA website promotes healthy tips at www.lung.org/healthy-air/.
The KAHC Industrial Hygiene Section serves as a consultant on indoor air quality issues in the workplace focusing on airborne contaminants and ventilation requirements to achieve acceptable indoor air quality. Fort Lee uses a team approach to investigate indoor air quality complaints utilizing the expertise from the Directorate of Public Works and others to verify the source and determine if feasible solutions to resolve concerns and prevent recurrences.
Identifying and fixing leaks, adjusting humidity levels, ensuring adequate air exchanges are occurring, and providing guidance to water damage restoration and mold assessment and remediation are a few of the steps in identifying and correcting deficiencies to provide a healthy working environment for all employees.
Active duty family members in the at-risk population should enroll in the Exceptional Family Member Program. For details, call (804) 734-9438.