Asthma is on the rise globally because of urbanisation, industrialisation, environmental pollution and global warming. Globally there are about 150 million asthmatics, of which 50% are children. In India nearly 5-8% of our children suffer from asthma. Here’s a special article by Pune-based Dr Barnali Bhattacharya, Consultant Paediatrics and Asthma Specialist, on the occasion of World Asthma Day (May 3, this year). Different Truths wishes that every child should breathe easy.
Bronchial asthma is the commonest chronic disorder of childhood. Globally there are about 150 million asthmatics, of which 50% are children. In India, nearly 5-8% of our children suffer from asthma. However, this disease often remains underdiagnosed and undertreated. People believe that asthma is synonymous with breathlessness but it is not so. The commonest symptom in a child with asthma is recurrent episodes of cough, which is mainly early morning, aggravates on running, laughing and crying. This cough does not respond to cough syrups. If not treated patient can be breathless and some episodes may be fatal.
Asthma is a disease where because of genetic propensity the airways become inflamed and swollen on exposure to triggers. The common triggers are viral infections, house dust mites, smoke [cigarette, mosquito coils, agarbatti (incense sticks), biomass fuel, fireworks), animal dander, fungus, strong smell, sudden exposure to cold, exercise, emotional outbursts, change in weather, colourants and preservatives in food.
Many a time parents are uncomfortable hearing the term asthma. And doctors then call it a seasonal cough, allergic cough, wheezy bronchitis. The problem with this is that they only take one point reliever treatment to get over the episodes. So they resort to frequent nebulisations, which many of them misuse at home too! This masks the disease and one episode may be a catastrophe.
There are excellent modalities of controlling asthma. Inhaled corticosteroids is the cornerstone of the treatment. There is steroid phobia in the minds of public. But given in the right doses, by the correct device, it not only controls the symptoms but the children can be like all other. These medicines are not habit forming (as is feared), or lowers immunity (as is wrongly perceived), or leads to weight gain (as in anabolic steroids).The treatment is for a duration of more than a year and depending on control the treating doctor steps down and then stops and the child is without any medication. Adherence to treatment is extremely important.
Asthma is on the rise globally because of urbanisation, industrialisation, environmental pollution and global warming.
Children with asthma are not allowed to eat many healthy food items and not allowed to participate in physical activities because of fear of an attack.
We can help them all by diagnosing on time, explaining to parents about the disease, dispel their doubts and allay their anxiety and offer correct treatment.
Asthma in children interferes with the quality of life and in some can even cause death.
On this day, the World Asthma Day (first Tuesday in the month of May), let us spread awareness about asthma in children and help all of them breath free!
Pix from Net.
Barnali Bhattacharya is a practising paediatrician for last 30 years with special interest in childhood asthma. Besides medicine she enjoys movies, reading, and fitness and is also a committed foodie! She loves nature, specially trees, flowers, the sea and sunsets. She is blessed with a lovely family and her favourite is her little grandson! She has extensively travelled since childhood, being an army child. People who know her describe her as compassionate and passionate!