Air Quality & Education – How Asthma Affects School Attendance in Southern California

asthma-southern california-san bernandino - air quality - children

The correlation between poor eyesight and bad grades has been known for some time.  Students who struggle in school often don’t do so because of a lack of intelligence or ability, but because they’re not able to see and comprehend what’s on the whiteboard, the computer screen, or the papers in front of them. This pattern of biological factors impacting education goes beyond eyesight. Recent studies have shown that air quality and asthma can also have an impact on school performance and attendance.

Asthma in Southern California Schools

Asthma is one of the leading causes of school absenteeism in the urban counties of Southern California. It’s also the number one reason children are in the emergency room.

In the County of San Bernardino, alone, approximately 16.7 percent of children between the ages of 0-14 were hospitalized as a result of asthma-related symptoms in 2017.

Additionally, living in urban areas with traffic congestion and consequential air pollution has a disproportionate impact on children and teenagers.

One study found that “traffic pollution causes asthma attacks in children, and may cause a wide range of other effects including the onset of childhood asthma, impaired lung function, premature death and death from cardiovascular diseases and cardiovascular morbidity.”

The areas that are most affected were within 0.2 to 0.3 miles of a major highway, which would include many school districts and residential areas in Southern California.

So there are two main issues here:

  1. Improving air quality in areas where children live and go to school
  2. Giving children with asthma access to better care
The Road To Improved Air Quality and Health
Breathmobile

The Breathmobile Asthma Clinic has been utilized in Los Angeles County, Orange County, and the County of San Bernardino. It’s a mobile clinic that provides free care to students suffering from asthma, helping them get back to school faster. Here are some of the services they provide:

  • Coordinated case identification
  • Structured mobile office visits
  • Diagnostic testing
  • Physical exams
  • Pharmacological therapy
  • Patient/family education in asthma management

Thanks to the efforts of the Breathmobile, studies have shown a decrease in school absenteeism, fewer emergency room visits, pulmonary function improvement, higher exercise tolerance, and improved quality of life for the children who are participating in the program. This could serve as a model for improving asthma care in other areas of Southern California and beyond.

Improving Air Quality

While improved treatment for asthma sufferers is important, air quality control is another huge factor in this health crisis.

This Southern California Children’s Health Study proved that prevention is possible and recorded a 20 percent decrease in new asthma cases where there was improved air quality over a 20-year period.

But how do we improve air quality?

A Positive Change In Air Quality

While it’s difficult for us as individuals to have a large impact on overall, outdoor air quality, there are plenty of ways to take control of the air quality in our own homes today.

The home is most likely where children are exposed to the highest levels of allergens and asthma triggers, primarily because the home is where they spend the majority of their time.

Here are some strategies for improving the air quality in your home:

  • Remove/reduce asthma triggers such as dust, pets, mold, and VOCs
  • Make your home non-smoking
  • Maintain a healthy humidity level using a humidifier in dry areas and a dehumidifier in moist/damp areas
  • Prevent mold growth by using exhaust fans in kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms
  • Avoid scented candles or heavy scented cleaning products
  • Install and check carbon monoxide alarms and radon alarms
  • Install an asthma and allergy-friendly air purifier
Ask An Air Quality Expert

Still have questions about creating a healthy environment for you and your family? Check out Aprilaire’s Find A Pro resources to talk with someone who can address the specific needs of your home or work environments.

If you’re already using air purification and filtration in your home, it never hurts to look at the last time you changed your filters, especially if you live in an area exposed to wildfire smoke. A properly functioning filter is essential to the air purification process and can help prolong the life of your equipment. Look through the Air Filter Buying Guide for more information.

Sources:

 American Optometric Association: https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/good-vision-throughout-life/childrens-vision/school-aged-vision-6-to-18-years-of-age

California Air Resources Board: https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/

Health Effects Institute: https://www.healtheffects.org/

 Journal of the American Medical Association: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2733972

National Institutes of Health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4914465/

National Public Radio: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/05/21/725364857/when-las-air-got-better-kids-asthma-cases-dropped

University of Southern California: https://healthstudy.usc.edu/

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