Since his tragic death last week, much has been said about Jett Travolta's battle with Kawaski Disease when he was 15 months old. How can we protect our children from this dangerous disease?
According to the Children's Health Environment Coalition (CHEC) website, when Jett was 15 months old he became very ill with a high fever and a rash. His parents John and Kelly rushed him to the hospital and were told that he had contracted a rare disease.
Jett was diagnosed with Kawasaki Disease, a childhood immune system disease that causes the inflammation of blood vessels throughout the body and, if untreated, may affect the heart. Though only about 15 out of 100,000 children under the age of five get the disease in the United States every year, it is the leading cause of acquired heart disease among kids here.
In the hospital, Kelly was asked to fill out a questionnaire, which contained questions about family habits and activities. One of the questions asked if the carpets in their home had been recently cleaned. "Until then, I thought that cleaning the carpets religiously was the healthy thing to do for my children," says Kelly. In fact, Kelly had the carpets cleaned frequently --a nd just prior to Jett's illness.
Luckily, Jett was diagnosed and treated early, so he suffered no damage to his heart or other organs -- other children might not be so lucky.
But what are you supposed to do if you have carpeting and kids? As we all know, kids are messy and if you want to keep a clean home, it is sometimes necessary to clean the carpets.
Here are some suggestions from CHEC to help you keep your kids safe and healthy.
1. Consider replacing wall-to-wall carpets.
Throw rugs, tile, wood and other non-carpet materials are easier to keep clean. Wall-to-wall carpets and their pads are reservoirs for dust mites, dirt, mold and pollutants. They are especially problematic in bathrooms, kitchens, basements and bedrooms, and should not be used in homes of asthmatics. Wood and tile floors can be covered with machine washable throw rugs.
2. Place doormats at all entrances and encourage family members to wipe!
That keeps dirt, pesticides and other pollutants from getting on carpets. Large mats, that cover two or three strides, will ensure that even those that refuse to wipe will leave most of the dirt clinging to their shoes on the mat rather than your carpet.
3. Encourage family members to remove shoes upon entrance into the home.
Pesticides, pollutants and dirt come indoors on shoes and are tracked onto carpets. If going shoeless is not acceptable to family members, suggest that they wear house shoes (that don't go outside), slippers or socks. In fact, bare feet can deposit natural skin oils on carpet. The oils attract dirt.
4. Vacuum two or more times per week.
Frequent vacuuming helps reduce the level of dust mites, which trigger asthma and allergy attacks. It also means getting rid of surface dirt on carpets before it has a chance to get ground in. A vacuum cleaner with strong suction, rotating brushes and a HEPA filter, so the dirt and dust won't get blown back out in the exhaust, is best. Go back and forth over the same spot several times, especially in high traffic areas, to get all of the dirt and dust. Take care also to vacuum thoroughly along walls and carpet edges because dirt and dust accumulates there.
5. Clean up spills on carpets immediately to prevent stains.
Soak up liquid spills by covering them with clean white (or light-colored) towels or paper towels. Scrape sticky substances off carpets with a spatula or spoon. Don't rub the spill. That will damage carpet fibers and make the stain spread.
To clean the stain, mix 1 cup warm water and 1/2 teaspoon mild liquid soap, such as dishwashing liquid or fine fabric detergent. Apply a small amount, blot by pressing a clean white towel into the carpet and lift. Then repeat the process until the spot is gone.
The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) have requested that people understand that scientific studies have concluded that there is not sufficient evidence to support a link between cleaning chemicals and Kawasaki Disease.
In 1982 an outbreak of the little known children's disease, Kawasaki Syndrome, occurred in the Denver area. Researchers surveyed the 23 families affected and found that 11 homes had their carpet cleaned within 30 days of the onset of the disease, while 12 had no connection with carpet cleaning at all. Although the researchers concluded there was no causal relationship with carpet, some media reports sensationalized the phenomenon. Some of those reports continue to resurface today.
Numerous studies in the last 25 years have failed to develop any relationship between Kawasaki Syndrome and carpet or carpet cleaning. Also, it is important to note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not list any relationship to carpet or carpet cleaning and Kawasaki. In fact, the disease is most prevalent in Japan, where little carpet is used.
The precise cause of Kawasaki Syndrome remains unknown, although a genetic predisposition has been identified since statistics show tenfold prevalence among children of Japanese ancestry compared to Caucasian children. It is not contagious.
For proper care carpet, CRI recommends regularly vacuuming with Seal of Approval/Green Label certified vacuums and professional deep cleaning every on or two years. This helps improve indoor air quality by removing dust and other pollutants that are trapped by carpet fibers.