Review – National Jewish Family Air Care Kit

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Back when my daughter was three, four, and even five years-old and flaring all the time, I remember one visit to the pediatrician’s office in particular. Nothing seemed to help her spastic airways – not the short burst of oral steroids, not the various allergy prescriptions, not the three solid weeks of round-the-clock albuterol treatments. To complicate the mystery and as per usual when it comes to sick kids, my daughter looked and acted just fine during her appointments.

That same old story.

Her breathing, in fact, stayed relatively steady during the visits, too. Well, “steady” compared to the hacking she did all day and night at home, never sleeping more than–no lie–about five hours a night throughout the month of October.

I answered the usual questions I’m sure you’re all familiar with:

Any pets at home?
Does anyone smoke inside the home?
Any known allergies?

No, no, and not sure.

Clearly, something triggered my kid’s asthma at home, and the fact that she hadn’t ever taken daily maintenance steroids wasn’t helping. While I had never taken her for allergy testing, she didn’t exhibit any allergy symptoms, either.

“Well, something’s triggering her in your house, probably,” the doctor said.
“Yes,” I said.

I felt helpless and practically hopeless, wishing doctors still made house calls so he could come identify the trigger and solve this horrible mystery for me.

If you read Asthma Mom regularly, you already know how that story ended. I eventually educated myself better about asthma, figured out what triggered my daughter, the doctors and specialists adjusted her treatment plan, and today she’s a moderate-persistent, nearly 10 year-old asthmatic under good control.

It took awhile, though.

Right before Christmas, National Jewish Health asked me to try out a new weapon in asthma treatment, a kit that helps solve that home trigger puzzle.

It’s called the Family Air Care Indoor Allergens & Mold Test Kit, and it’s better than a doctor’s home visit. Instead, it uses the scientific resources at National Jewish to test your home for common triggers.

Remember the Asthma Vest? The Air Care kit is kind of like that, only it’s actually available to regular folks like you and me.

Here’s how it works:

In the picture below, you’ll see a gray DUSTREAM collector to attach to your vacuum hose, a red adaptor should the collector not fit the hose, 2 nylon filters, a tape measure, and a blue-lidded shipping tube.

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To use the kit, you pick a room (or two rooms) to test. Once you fit the filter and collector onto your vacuum hose, you’ll suck up all the dust and debris in your sample area, cap off the nylon filters that hold the sample(s), fill out the information card, and use the prepaid, pre-labeled envelope to send the shipping tube back to National Jewish.

The method is simple and user-friendly, and the kit even includes a piece of tape to attach the DUSTREAM collector to your vacuum hose, if you’re like me and have two children who cannot resist the lure of your home office supplies when it comes craft projects.

Now, here’s the best part. Once your sample gets to National Jewish, Advanced Diagnostic Laboratories (ADx) tests your sample(s) for mold, pet dander, dust mites, and cockroach debris and emails the results back to you.

Plainly, this process is going to net you more information than that hypothetical home doctor’s visit. ADx conducts mold spore counts with 99% accuracy and uses “special instrumentation” for sample analysis. The latter keeps human error out of the equation, but I also appreciated the security and confidentiality of a detailed data report. It erased the mental image in my head of two scientists bending over microscopes, peering in horror at my samples: “This family has a kid with asthma? Really? You’d think they’d clean their floors every once in a while then.”

As for my actual results?

I sent in two samples, one from the living room and one from my daughter’s bedroom (naturally). My home’s cat, dog, dust mite, and cockroach levels all stayed low, and dust mites had the highest number of the four. Mold levels in my house are moderate. And of those levels, the lab detected both a mold associated with indoor moisture and and outdoor one. According to the lab report, moderate mold levels are “typical” in U.S. homes. I’d even venture to call them more-than-typical here along the overly humid Florida panhandle.

I was happily surprised by my home’s low trigger levels, and they reaffirmed for me the expense of reflooring this house when we first moved in several years ago. If it still contains traces of cat and dog dander while we don’t have a family pet ourselves, I wonder how much higher those levels would be if I had kept the original carpeting?

Now, this laboratory analysis doesn’t come cheap.

National Jewish was kind enough to provide my kit for review, but as I wrote this post I considered the cost vs. benefit of it by tallying up some of the trigger abatement I’ve paid for over the years. Getting the A/C ductwork cleaned professionally in my previous house, for example. I didn’t have that cleaning done where I live now, which is actually an older house, and my excellent Air Care results last week make me question its worth.

Home testing from the very beginning probably would have saved me money in the long run. And there’s no question that identifying the major asthma triggers that existed in my home would of course have reaped priceless benefits for my daughter’s health and quality of life when she was young.

New York, Boston, and Chicago readers: You can find the Family Air Care Indoor Allergens & Mold Test Kit at Green Depot environmental living and building stores. (Readers everywhere can also order through the Green Depot website as well as through the National Jewish links above.)

77 responses to “Review – National Jewish Family Air Care Kit”

  1. GeorgeandWheezie says:

    I need to finish reading all of that when I’m not at work. But for what I’ve already read, this sounds like an excellent kit for the money.

    Sounds like it could be worth it.

    Thanks Amy!

  2. Steve says:

    I cringe to think what my results would be.

    I have 3 indoor cats and I live in a Victorian which is 116 years old.

    Thanks for that eye-opener

  3. freadom says:

    When I had bad asthma as a kid NationalJewish did that testing on my parent’s house. The results were an eye opener to them. It’s nice there’s a kid for this now.

  4. Jen says:

    It would be awesome if they could bring the price down. My sister’s girls were just diagnosed with asthma and as I was reading this, I was thinking I should order her a kit… until I saw the price tag. Still, good to know the option is out there.

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