Chicago—An unexpected consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the call for wider use of household disinfectants is reduced asthma control, according to a survey.

The report in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical immunology: In Practice points out that those products are known asthma triggers. As respiratory irritants, cleaning products can cause inflammation and bronchial hyperresponsiveness, according to the article.

“We became concerned with increased cleaning and disinfecting related to the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with people spending more time indoors may expose people with asthma to more environmental triggers for asthma symptoms,” explained lead author Kamal Eldeirawi PhD, RN, of the College of Nursing at the University of Illinois at Chicago. This prompted our interest in studying the impact of disinfectants and asthma control among those living with asthma.”

The online survey, which was conducted between May and September 2020, asked adults with asthma about handwashing and hand-sanitizer use and household-disinfectant use and frequency. The survey also queried about asthma symptoms, use of rescue medications, effect of asthma on daily functioning, and personal asthma control over the past 4 weeks. The 795 respondents used a 1-5 scale, with a total score of 19 or less considered an indication of uncontrolled asthma.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, researchers report a 138% increase of use of disinfectant wipes five or more times per week among respondents, as well as a 121% increase for disinfectant sprays, 155% for a bleach and water solution, and 89% for other liquids.

Significant associations of frequent disinfectant use with uncontrolled asthma in that time period also was documented. While the study did not include data on increases in healthcare provider or emergency-department visits for asthma, a large percentage of the respondents indicated having had an asthma attack, Dr Eldeirawi said.

“Healthcare providers should recognize the potential impact of cleaning/disinfecting practices on people with asthma, particularly the use of disinfectants with strong odors that are known asthma triggers,” the authors write. “Individuals with asthma should be provided with safer cleaning/disinfecting options.”

Among safer cleaning product alternatives are vinegar, water and a drop of dish detergent, 70% alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide, the study advises.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly impacted the U.S. population and is a substantial concern among individuals with chronic respiratory diseases,” according to the article. “Asthma is a complex, multifaceted respiratory disease that affects more than 19 million U.S. adults. As individuals are sheltering at home for longer periods of time, those with asthma contend with asthma triggers and new chemical exposures as they sanitize their home environments to prevent COVID-19.”

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