An initiative by WHO, World Asthma Day is observed yearly on May 7th, with the aim to raise awareness on the growing rise of asthma across the world. India has recently been in the limelight for being the second country in the world with the largest number of cases of asthma in children in India caused by vehicular pollution. According to a study published by The Lancet recently,it was found that 3,50,000 children in India developed asthma due to vehicular pollution. With the theme for this World Asthma Day being “STOP” for Asthma, let us understand how we can ‘STOP’ the spread of asthma in our children!
Asthma arises either due to genetic factors or as a result of
external irritants.A family with a long line or descendants with asthma is more
likely to produce an offspring with asthma. Apart from genetic, external
factors include outdoor pollution (dust, pollen, unclean, polluted air) and
indoor pollutants like house-mites, dusty rugs/house décor, filthy animals or
insect residue. Women who smoke/ who are
exposed to tobacco smoke during pregnancy also have a greater risk of
delivering a baby who could develop asthma. There have also been deeper
investigations into the correlation between urbanization and the development of
asthma in children.
Generally speaking, a decade or so back cases of asthma were due
to genetic factors. However, there has been an alarming rise in the cases of
asthma that observed off late and a large portion of this has been linked to
the increase in outdoor and indoor pollution. Symptoms of asthma generally
occur during the early years of a person and may either gradually stop or it
may be an issue that continues into adulthood. The signs of asthma in a child
are the same as the signs of asthma in adults however the impact on a child is
To prevent the development of external pollutant induced asthma in
our children, it is important to take precautionary measures right from the
time of pregnancy. Avoid exposure to heavily polluted areas – the family may
even consider moving to a greener neighborhood. It is advisable to equip
children with a face mask to reduce the amount of pollution that they inhale.
It is also advised to ensure children have a well-rounded diet and ample exercise
to help their immune systems fight off any respiratory diseases that may
exacerbate the likelihood of asthma development.
Asthma must be detected and managed early, particularly in the
case of children as it can be scary if they get a serious attack. Symptoms can
vary from a mild cough to persistent, sever cough, chest congestion, shortness
of breath, chest tightness or wheezing. If any of this symptoms already exist
and these are exacerbated by an external infection (viral) and if these
symptoms don’t go away even after the infection has passed, then it could be a
sign that the child has developed asthma.
A common problem faced by doctors today is that of self-treatment
by patients. Often pharmacists advise patients on opting for different kinds of
treatments to manage asthma however this is counterproductive. First and
foremost, a parent must bring their child to a doctor for diagnosis before
coming to any conclusions, as often what parents fear to be asthma in their
child can be another respiratory illness. Asthma is a disorder that
unfortunately cannot be treated but can be managed and typically doctors
prescribe the use of inhalers to help control asthmatic attacks. However, in
the case of a respiratory disease like the flu or other similar viral infections,
it can be treated. If asthma is detected, the doctor will further be able to
guide the patient on what treatment option is suitable for.
Pediatric asthma can drastically be reduced if efforts are taken
to reduce the amount of air pollution we create. The issue must be tackled
holistically with ample public and private sector effort to cut down on
pollution and introduce more green initiatives in the country. India is home to
one of the largest youth populations and it is imperative to our country’s future
to give our young one’s cleaner and healthier spaces to breathe.