There are so many extraordinary things in the world that can take your breath away. Extra benne in a benne masala dosa, 4G speeds in a 4G plan, and a bike ride in the rains, perhaps. So many things. All extraordinary.
But there’s nothing like asthma. No, Siree! Asthma is everything extraordinary, because it sucks every ounce of ordinary from your life. And when its victim is a child, its symptoms are magnified. About 1 in 10 Indian children suffer from asthma, and it appears that lifestyle plays a large role in shaping the condition.
What is Asthma?
Asthma is a condition that has reared its ugly head on about 150 million people around the world, a number that is comparable with the population of Russia! It manifests through wheezing attacks and breathlessness, which are spurred by the inflammation of air passages. The nerve endings in the airways also become hypersensitive, contracting and dilating erratically, and restricting air flow to the lungs.
What About Childhood Asthma?
About 35% of pre-schoolers exhibit symptoms of asthma. While two-thirds of these tots outgrow these symptoms in the later stages of childhood, a study suggests that 16.67% of urban Indian children suffer from childhood asthma. But hey, what about the prevalence of childhood asthma in rural India? Ah, much less. 5.7%, to be precise.
What Causes Childhood Asthma?
- Pulmonary Aspiration: Childhood asthma is triggered by a combination of environmental and genetic influences. But a key contributor has been identified – aspiration (no, we’re not talking about how your child’s aspirations in life can affect his breathing). Aspiration, or the process of drawing breath, can be a significant factor in the onset of childhood asthma. And the reality is, many of us start breathing wrong from the moment we take our first breath. This is how. When babies are young, they are usually fed breast milk, lying down. Some mothers also choose to nurse their babies in extended sessions, rather than at small, yet frequent intervals. Both, can result in incorrect breathing patterns for your child, and lead to pulmonary aspiration. Pulmonary aspiration is a condition where food, liquids or saliva is drawn into the airways. It’s a case of frequent choking, and a trigger for asthma.
- Diet: Your child’s diet can ward off asthma. There’s a study that indicates that a diet infused with antioxidants and polyphenols lowers the chances of asthma. Some ingredients you can add to the dishes on your dinner table are kidney beans, haldi, ginger, basil and berries (all great sources of antioxidants). You’ll find polyphenols in foods like dark chocolate (score!), star anise, cloves and flaxseed. There’s also evidence to suggest that children who are breastfed are less likely to develop asthma.
- Environment: The fact that there is such a large disparity between rural and urban childhood asthma rates is suggestive of how the environment can make a difference to your child’s nasal passages. As pollution and allergens cloud the air and our judgement, we’re becoming victims of ourselves. Who would have thought, eh?
Managing Your Child’s Asthma
Asthma can be controlled through a variety of controller medications, quick-relief medications and long-term control medications, which help to ease the inflammation in the airways and improve breathing. If your child suffers from more than two asthmatic attacks per week, speak to your doctor to discuss a treatment plan.
Your child deserves to have her breath taken away by beautiful things. Don’t let asthma get in the way.
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