Environmental pollution: one of the major causes for increasing asthma prevalence in children, says HCFI

11:25 am Health Care, Heart Care Foundation of India, Medicine

Proper management and correct use of inhalers are key to prevent attacks

New Delhi, 6th May 2019: According to the World Health Organization, about 80% of asthma deaths occur in the low and lower-middle-income countries. Of the estimated 1.5 to 2 crore asthma patients around the world, at least 1 in every 10 lives in India. A recent study also indicates that about 35% of preschoolers in the country exhibit asthma symptoms. While two-thirds outgrow the symptoms in later years, about 16.67% continue to suffer.

On World Asthma Day, the need of the hour is to raise awareness on the fact that environmental pollution is emerging as a big risk factor for the condition, especially among children. The theme for World Asthma Day this year is ‘STOP for Asthma’. STOP expands into Symptom evaluation, Test response, Observe and assess, and proceed to adjust treatment. It is imperative to educate patients on proper management and correct use of inhalers.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “It is important to understand the working of airways to understand asthma. The airways are tubes that carry air into and out of the lungs. In people with asthma, these airways are inflamed, which makes them swollen and very sensitive. Due to this, the airways react strongly to certain inhaled substances, which causes the muscles around them to tighten. As a result, the airways become narrow causing less air to flow into the lungs. The cells in the airways might make more mucus than usual. All these can result in asthma symptoms, which can occur each time the airways are inflamed. There is no specific reason for the development of asthma in children. However, there are several triggers such as dust, air pollution, and exposure to secondhand smoke. Pediatric asthma is one of the major reasons for absenteeism from school.”

Some symptoms of asthma in children include wheezing (whistling sound) when breathing, coughing, rapid and labored breathing, complaints of chest hurting, reduced energy, and feeling weak or tired.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor-in-Chief of IJCP, said, “Airway sensitivity is going up among people in both rural and urban areas due to sustained exposure to a combination of triggers. Asthma requires continuous medical care and those with moderate-to-severe asthma must take long-term medicines such as anti-inflammatory drugs. These should be taken every day to prevent symptoms and attacks. Short-term medicines such as inhaled short-acting beta2-agonists are also used for quick relief of asthma symptoms.”

Some tips from HCFI

  • Prevent exposure to dust mites. These are tiny insects and one of the most common asthma triggers. They tend to live in beds, carpeting, upholstered furniture and soft toys. It is important to keep all these things dust free.
  • Restrict the child’s contact with pets especially if he/she is allergic.
  • Maintain a healthy weight and encourage good eating habits. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in their diet.
  • Avoid exposure to smoke. Expectant mothers should quit smoking altogether as this is one of the major risk factors for development of asthma in children.

·       Breastfeed your infant. This will increase immunity and help ward off potential complications.

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