Pollution and construction work are the main causes for rise in childhood asthma in cities

According to recent findings of a nationwide survey called ‘Breath Blue 15’  2000 children in the age group of 8-14 years were screened for lung health status. 40 per cent of children in Delhi were found to have ratings of ‘bad’ to ‘poor’ lung health, while Bengaluru followed closely with 36 per cent, Kolkata with 35 per cent, and Mumbai with 27 per cent

Pollution and construction work are the main causes for rise in childhood asthma in cities
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Aarav Gupta (name changed) a 4 year old was diagnosed with asthma when he was just 7 month old. Before this, he was wrongly treated for pneumonia. After years of treatment and medication, Aarav’s asthma is now under control and he is living a healthy and active life like other children of his age do.

It’s not just Aarav, but many others like him who are suffering from childhood asthma in Mumbai. The main reason according to doctors is pollution.

“It is very important to understand the symptoms of asthma among young children. In Aarav’s case his father had Allergic rhinitis and his mother had childhood asthma. Here there is family history and the child had a recurring cough without fever, breathlessness,” said Dr Sushant Mane, Associate professor of paediatrics at Grand Government Medical College and Sir J J Group of Hospital.

Mane gets 3 to 4 cases of childhood asthma per month. “There are external and internal house factors responsible for asthma among children. Inside the house extensive use of fragranced agarbatti, deodorant perfumes and outside house are dust from construction sites and pollution. Inside house factors can be controlled if you have children at home,” added Mane.

27 per cent of children in Mumbai have unhealthy lungs due to increasing levels of pollution. This in turn is making more children asthmatics from different age group.

According to recent findings of a nationwide survey called ‘Breath Blue 15’ the lung health of children in metropolitan cities of India is poor. In all, 2000 children in the age group of 8-14 years were screened for lung health status. 40 per cent of children in Delhi were found to have ratings of ‘bad’ to ‘poor’ lung health, while Bengaluru followed closely with 36 per cent, Kolkata with 35 per cent, and Mumbai with 27 per cent.

Dr PM Bhujang, President, Association of Hospital while suggesting measures said, “Today air pollution proves to be one of the most prominent reasons for the increase in the number of asthmatic patients. We should remember that asthma is a long-term disease that has no cure, but can be controlled well through treatment. This World Asthma Day, we urge people who are asthmatic or feel breathless should get a lung function test and allergy test, as a first step to understand asthma symptoms.”

“There are several therapies and forms of treatment available for asthma. The patients should consult their doctors immediately to get the best possible treatment” he further added.

With increasing cases of asthma worldwide, cases of asthma in children is more worrisome for doctors.

Dr Mukesh Sanklecha, Consulting Paediatrician Pulmonologist, Bombay Hospital said, “All over the world, asthma cases are increasing. We began to see an upsurge in asthma 10 to 15 years ago among children. And this it is maybe because there is increasing cases of asthma or due to awareness.

Explaining about how excessive cleanliness leading which is called as hygiene hypothesis he said, “As the level hygiene improves, the incidence of infection goes down and incidence of allergies goes up this is called as hygiene hypothesis. So, when children are not exposed to infection early in life, they do get asthma and other allergies in adverse environment. Also increasing usage of antibiotic and paracetamol both in pregnancy and first year also causes asthma among children. Pollution and construction work are some other important responsible factors”.

Sanklecha also says that he gets children aged between few months to 15 year olds who suffer from asthma.

Asthma is an inflammation of the small airways causing these tubes to become swollen and undergo spasm narrowing them down leading to breathing difficulty. The lung tissue is not affected in asthma.

Elaborating about misconceptions associated with asthma, Dr Aditya Agarwal, Consultant Physician at Bhatia hospital said, “Misconceptions still exist. Like it’s a chronic disease and will have to be hospitalised or bed ridden forever, an asthmatic person can’t have a normal life. There is a fear among parents using inhalers and steroid medications as the treatment for asthma. Also many cases go undiagnosed due to lack of awareness. Asthma is not curable but can be control with proper medication.

“Though more number of cases gets diagnosed early due to awareness but we need to educate and inform more regarding asthma,” he said.

The World Health Organization recognises asthma as a major health problem. Asthma is a chronic disease which affects large population worldwide and its number is rising every year. According to the WHO between 100 and 150 million people around suffer from asthma.

In India, the soaring numbers have reached 15-20 million and the number will continue to grow until adequate emphasis is laid on the importance of identifying the right medication, which can help manage asthma effectively.

Apart from pollution and other factors some doctors also observing changing diet pattern and unhealthy way of life leading to growing cases of asthma especially among younger generation.

Dr Amin Kaba, Consultant Paediatrician, Saifee Hospital said, “Increasing pollution,  decreased exposure to sunlight and exercise, junk food leading to obesity and genetics all have contributed to the rising trend in asthma patients.  Its one of the leading cause of absentism in school and billions of dollars are lost in treating a very reasonably controllable ailment.”

According to National Center for Biotechnology Information, the prevalence of Bronchial Asthma has increased continuously since the 1970s, and now affects an estimated 4 to 7 per cent of the people worldwide. Childhood Bronchial Asthma varies widely from country to country. At the age of six to seven years, the prevalence ranges from 4 to 32 per cent. The same range holds good for ages 13 and 14. UK has the highest prevalence of severe Bronchial Asthma in the world.

Causes of severe asthma

The most common causes of asthma are:

  • Asthma mimics such as COPD, Hiatal hernia, ABPA, Heart failure, vocal cord dysfunction syndrome
  • Presence of co morbidities – Allergic rhinitis, GERD, Psychiatric illnesses, Sleep apnea
  • Unidentified exacerbating factors – rare causes such as mutations in the beta 2 receptor gene or mutations in the steroid receptor gene

Prevention

  • You can reduce asthma symptoms by avoiding known triggers and substances that irritate the airways.
  • Cover bedding with “allergy-proof” casings to reduce exposure to dust mites.
  • Remove carpets from bedrooms and vacuum regularly.
  • Use only unscented detergents and cleaning materials in the home.
  • Keep humidity levels low and fix leaks to reduce the growth of organisms such as mold.
  • Keep the house clean and keep food in containers and out of bedrooms — this helps reduce the possibility of cockroaches, which can trigger asthma attacks in some people.
  • If a person is allergic to an animal that cannot be removed from the home, the animal should be kept out of the bedroom. Place filtering material over the heating outlets to trap animal dander.
  • Eliminate tobacco smoke from the home. This is the single most important thing a family can do to help a child with asthma
  • Family members and visitors who smoke outside carry smoke residue inside on their clothes and hair — this can trigger asthma symptoms.