According to the World Health Organization (WHO), asthma is a chronic lung disease that affects people of all ages. It is caused by inflammation and tightening of the muscles around the airways, which makes it harder to breathe. A recent study pointed out that bronchial asthma seems to have increased steadily since the 1970s and now affects around 4-7% of the world’s population. In India, about 3.3% of children are affected by childhood bronchial asthma. Figures worldwide may in fact be higher because, as the WHO points out, asthma is often underdiagnosed and undertreated, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Dr. Asmita Mahajan, Consultant Neonatologist and Pediatrician, SL Raheja Hospital, Mahim – a Fortis Associate, spoke to Zee News Digital about childhood asthma in India, reasons, asthma management, and more.
Q. Has asthma in children increased over the past five years?
Dr. Asmita Mahajan: Due to the increase in environmental pollution, especially air pollution, cases of asthma in children have increased over the past five years. They are more common in urban areas with more pollution.
cre Trending Stories
Q. What are the symptoms of childhood asthma?
Dr. Mahajan: Some common symptoms of childhood asthma include:
• A hiss when exhaling
• Shortness of breath, which can interfere with play/even routine activities
• Chest congestion or tightness
• Frequent cough. which gets worse when the child has a viral respiratory infection, or when exercising, or when exposed to cold air
Q. How is asthma in children different from asthma in adults?
Dr. Mahajan: Children may have difficulty sleeping due to shortness of breath or cough. In addition, children with asthma often face a delayed bronchitis/respiratory infection response. They can also face a lot of fatigue and exhaustion due to this chronic condition.
Q. Is it curable?
Dr. Mahajan: Asthma is treatable, not curable. Some children, however, may continue to have symptoms into adulthood.
Q. What is the treatment for childhood asthma?
Dr. Mahajan: Asthma is a disease caused by over-reactive airways that lead to inflammation of those airways. In most cases, treatment medicine tries to solve this problem. Additionally, oral or inhaled bronchodilators, steroids, and anti-allergy medications are medical options for asthma.
Treatment for asthma depends on the child’s age and the severity of symptoms. The method of treatment, whether spacer, inhaler, or nebulizer, is best decided by the healthcare team based on the individual diagnosis and prognosis. Oral medications may be needed depending on the severity of the disease.
Q. Do asthma medications have a long-term impact on health?
Dr. Mahajan: Some side effects of asthma medications are:
• Local irritation of the mouth and throat
• Oral candidiasis (thrush) is more common in adults than in children, but not at lower doses. However, using a spacer and rinsing the mouth with water after inhalation can prevent this side effect.
• Growth and Bone Suppression Osteoporosis can occur due to long-term intake of oral steroids. But those inhaled only cause growth retardation, and final adult height is unaffected. This suggests that the child’s development can “catch up” even if they have asthma.
Managing Diabetes in Children: Causes, Challenges, Symptoms and Psychological Impact – What an Expert Says
Q. Can children with asthma play sports? What precautions should be taken ?
Dr. Mahajan: Children can play sports in a controlled environment. Exercise can sometimes trigger an attack, so the environment should be kept clean. If the trigger is well mastered, a child can participate but with the necessary instructions for a teacher to get help if needed. More importantly, exercise controls weight and helps alleviate asthma symptoms. Some activities that rarely cause a flare-up of symptoms include volleyball, downhill skiing, softball, baseball, and taekwondo. These activities do not require rapid and prolonged breathing. In some cases, gymnastics can sometimes exacerbate the symptoms. Yoga is one of the best forms of exercise for children with asthma. After a thorough discussion with a doctor, physical activities should be included in the child’s routine.
Q. Are there any other relevant points to remember?
Dr. Mahajan: Prevention of triggers is key, so asthma patients should avoid triggers such as dust, smoke, pigeon dander, exposure to construction sites and pets. It is equally important to promptly treat viral illnesses and reduce exposure to cold food and cold air. Keep humidity at home to a minimum