Cooking or the simple act of preparing a meal can sometimes be a trigger for an asthmatic attack because of the fumes and smoke rising from burned food. However, smoke from burned food is not the only trigger in the kitchen but gas from gas stoves is also a concern. Gas stoves release nitrogen dioxide (NO2) which can also be an irritant and cause asthma. Nitrogen dioxide spreads quite rapidly in the home and researchers found that even if a child’s room was on the second floor of a house, away from the kitchen, the levels of NO2 were still high enough to bring on an asthmatic attack. The healthy alternative to this would be using electric stoves instead of gas stoves for cooking for people who have asthma.
Another important factor to take into consideration when cooking is proper ventilation, especially if there is a person suffering from asthma in the family. Proper ventilation like a good range hood is important to vent fumes out of the house. Having large windows is also important.
Many people suffering from asthma and to stay far away from grills as it is believed that smoke from a grill or open fire is a major trigger. Anything which combusts, like charcoal and wood, causes smoke which is a sure shot trigger for asthma. However, this problem can be worked around.
If the grill is positioned in a well-ventilated area where there is nothing to trap the smoke like an awning or tree cover, the chances of it setting off an asthmatic attack are very less. Also, one has to be sure that the grill is in a direction where smoke will blow away from the people rather than towards them.
The kind of smoker that is used is also important – vertical vs reverse flow smokers. The debate around these two smokers vertical vs reverse flow has been on for a while, but for health purposes, especially for those suffering from asthma, the reverse flow smoker seems like a safer bet.
In a reverse flow offset smoker, the heat and smoke are not emitted immediately but enters the cooking chamber from the main firebox, underneath a steel plat. It is then forced across the lower section of the cooking chamber and rises at the and to reverse its flow and finally exits through the chimney near the firebox. Much of the smoke is lost by this dual process and so the smoke that is emitted from the chimney is much less. When grilling, another factor that can reduce the levels of fumes in the air is to set the grill at a lower temperature and keep the fire covered for as long as possible. A gas grill can also be a safer option for asthma patients because the smoke from a gas grill would be much less toxic than that from charcoal, as combustible solids produce more smoke and irritants.
One should also avoid using various kinds of chips on the grill. The chips may definitely add to the aroma of the food but they can also trigger asthma as these materials release molds and pollen into the air when burnt.
Although the various methods of cooking could trigger an asthmatic attack, if one is careful in the kitchen a culinary expert suffering from asthma can still have fun!