Tips for Minimizing Common Allergic Asthma Triggers in Your Home

In this segment, interior designer Robin Wilson and allergist Dr. Beth Corn, talk about helpful tips to reduce allergic asthma triggers in the home and provide information about allergic asthma and overall management.

Robin Wilson is an interior designer, author and founder and CEO of the self-titled, eco-friendly lifestyle brand. Diagnosed with allergic asthma at a young age, Robin has managed this condition for much of her life and has a deep understanding of the challenges faced by people living with allergic asthma. She believes there is a tie between indoor air quality and allergic triggers, which has led her to become an advocate for clean design. Robin has also advocated for clean construction and design methods, helping to create hypoallergenic and wellness spaces for her clients. She has served on the board of the Sustainable Furnishings Council.

Beth Eve Corn, MD is an Associate Professor of Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital and the Medical Director of the Clinical Immunology Faculty Practice Associates for Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Barnard College at Columbia University, where she was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa Society. After earning her medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, she completed an internal medicine residency and a fellowship in Clinical Immunology at Mount Sinai. She served as Chief of the Mount Sinai Allergy/Asthma Clinic from 1996 – 2009. Dr. Corn is board-certified in Clinical Immunology. Dr. Corn is a past president of the New York Allergy and Asthma Society and is consistently recognized as a top doctor by Castle Connolly, US News and New York Magazine. She is a fellow of both the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. She is a board member of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Dr. Corn has lectured throughout the United States to physicians, nurses and patients on topics in allergy and immunology.

-TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW-

Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to the program. I’m your host, Neal Howard here on Health Professional Radio. Thank you for joining us. May is Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, a very important time to be aware of allergic triggers in your home. Now, here to talk about some tips to reduce allergic asthma triggers is interior designer, Robin Wilson joined by allergist, Dr. Beth Corn. They’re here to provide some information about logic asthma and some overall management of the condition. Welcome to the program both, Robin Wilson and Dr. Beth Corn.

Dr. Beth Corn: Thank you for having us.

N: First, just a bit of background about yourself, Dr. Corn. I understand you are an allergist. Is that always been your main interest in medicine?

B: Yes. Absolutely. I find it very diverse, interesting and dynamic.

N: We’re here talking about allergic asthma. I thought that asthma was asthma. What is it about allergic asthma that differentiates it from other types of asthma or allergies?

B: Right. Well, what most people think about asthma they think about the condition of someone who’s wheezing, complaining of chest tightness, coughing, is uncomfortable because they’re short of breath. The majority of times when people have asthma, the trigger is an allergic trigger and when we talk about these triggers we need actual allergens like things that you find in the home such as dust mite, dander from pets and where I come from, the big city we actually even see cockroach debris. But people can also have other types of asthma where their triggers are not allergic in nature but they can be simple things like cold air, dry air, exercise and even stress can set off someone’s asthma symptoms.

N: How do you pinpoint allergic asthma? Is there some special way that it’s diagnosed and treated?

B: Yes. If one is having any symptoms, breathing symptoms, if they’re uncomfortable, one should go to either an allergist or pulmonologist to get evaluated and during that evaluation, they will be tested for allergies. What does that mean? They will be tested for the IgE antibody. IgE is the antibody that an allergic person makes, again the particular thing that they’re allergic to – dust mites, our pets. The way that this is done is through a simple skin test which can be placed on the arm and within 20 minutes you can know what you’re allergic to or a blood test where a tube of blood is gone sent to the lab and the next day, the allergist or pulmonologist can tell the
asthmatic what it is that they were allergic to and what triggers they have to avoid.

N: Now, this is something that has to be done by an allergist. This is not something that you can do at your home.

B: No. The allergists or pulmonologists specialize in asthma and they have a particular interest in allergic asthma. So they’re very keen on finding out what the triggers are, what you’re allergic to.

N: Robin, I understand you were diagnosed at an early age. How early were you diagnosed and what were some of your triggers? How did it all come about and how are you managing today?

Robin Wilson: Well, today I am just fine. I however before the age of 6 was wheezing all the time. And my parents took me to the pediatrician and he prescribed multiple things but one of the things that was key for my parents was he said your indoor air quality at home can actually affect your quality of life. So my parents became cleaning machines. They actually took out the shag carpet which was a trigger. They recognized dust mites were triggers. So they really ardently cleaned the bedding that we slept on and so many other things that they did to allow me to live a wonderful quality of life. Everyone’s experience will be different but it’s really important that you work with a pediatrician, medical practitioner to really understand what your triggers are. So that you can reduce them in your in your home.

N: Has learning about your asthma and managing it throughout years, does it play any role in your decision to be an interior designer or are the two just coincidental?

R: Well, it’s very funny. I was in Corporate America for several years and the company I worked for did an IPO and I was given the opportunity to do anything I wanted and so I thought real estate and design coincided and especially as Dr. Corn stated when you look at buildings – “How are buildings built?, Are they built in a clean manner?, What are some of the materials that should be used that are smooth, that don’t allow just to gather?,” and then of course design. I built a business that has really advised and helped people and my recent book Clean Design was the number one on Amazon and people really review it because it has everything from the nursery to the kitchen and things that you need to do. But one of the things that I think that we all have to remember is when you look at your home, you have whether it’s your living space, your sleeping space, your living space or your kitchen, they’re all places that people gather, that dust can gather, that any other number of triggers can gather, and if you don’t know what your triggers are you might not feel so great when you come home and that should certainly be your sanctuary.

N: Let’s talk a bit about Breathing Space. What is breathing space and why did you become get involved specifically?

R: Well, I believe if you have good information, you should share it and I’m so thrilled that this Breathing Space Campaign which is funded by Novartis and Genentech and partnered with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America as well as the Allergy and Asthma Network. They come together. They’ve created a wonderful website that has free information, tips, some videos, downloadable material and really guides people. I think that you should tell everyone, go to allergicasthma.com. Learn more, learn simple tips and tricks and lead a lifestyle that’s really fulfilling if you have year-round allergies.

N: Dr. Corn, what would you say is the best way to get the conversation started or at least clarify some things when you have a patient such as myself who thought asthma was asthma across the board a little bit of understanding? How you get there with your patients?

B: Well, first I want to know how much the patient really understands what’s going on with them. So I want to how well controlled somebody is and so I’ll ask the patient, “How often are you reaching for your rescue inhaler during the week? How often you’re having symptoms? Is it more than a couple of times a week? Are you waking up at night because of your asthma symptoms?” If this is happening several times a month that lets me know that their asthma symptoms are not well controlled. If they’ve been seen by either myself or another doctor and I realized that there have been on oral steroids … within a 12 month period, I know that their asthma is not well controlled. So if you have the answer of yes to any of the questions that I just asked then I realize and as all of us do in the field in allergy and pulmonary medicine that it is time to implement change in a current regimen of what this patient is doing because they are having frequent symptoms and we have got to minimize symptoms so that someone can have a life free of asthma exacerbation.

N: Doctor, when it comes to asthma we’ve heard kids grow out of it. Is that a myth or is this something that can actually happen with regular asthma as well as allergic asthma.

B: Well, everybody’s different and as Robin said everyone has their own stories and there are … people who over the years will get better but there are just as many people who over the years develop asthma. We’re all moving targets and it’s important that we maintain a very close relationship with our allergist, with our pulmonologist so that we’re monitored and that we’re only taking the medications that we need when we need them but that we’re also getting enough of what we need and enough advice of how to avoid triggers, how to minimize our allergens. This is key.

N: And once again the website is allergicasthma.com. Is that correct?

B&R:That is correct.

N: All right. The campaign is called Breathing Space. I thank both of you for joining us today interior designer, Robin Wilson, and allergist, Dr. Beth Corn.

B&R:Thank you.

N: Great. You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host, Neal Howard. Transcripts and audio of this program are available at healthprofessionalradio.com.au and also at hpr.fm.

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