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Thread: Why is asthma in children becoming more frequent?

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    Default Why is asthma in children becoming more frequent?

    Seemingly, asthma is becoming increasingly common in the United States and Europe. A visit to any school these days will find as many asthma inhalers among its students as Gameboys or cell phones. Why is it that asthma in children has become so widespread? For one thing, asthma is genetic, but that's not why it has become so common.

    It is widely believed that pollution does not cause asthma, but it certainly may exacerbate symptoms. The EPA, or Environmental Protection Agency, checks air quality throughout the United States every day and then publishes the data on the Internet and other public media. Keep track of these pollution levels in your area (called the air quality index, or AQI) and if levels are over 100 that day, stay indoors or limit your exposure to the outside.

    Another reason for increased asthma may be that smoking among children is increasing, although it is dropping for the overall population. Prior to the 1960s, it was not public knowledge that smoking was bad for you. In fact, as late as the early 20th century, doctors were encouraging patients to smoke to ease their "consumption," or tuberculosis, symptoms. These days, of course it's public knowledge that smoking increases lung cancer and other long illness, as well as other health disorders. Therefore, it is imperative for parents to not only encourage their children not to smoke and to talk with them about it, but to model good behavior themselves and quit smoking if they do. It will do little good for parents to lecture their children on the dangers of smoking if they themselves have a cigarette hanging out of their mouths while they're talking.

    Additionally, the rise in obesity among children, as well as the lack of exercise, contributes to the rise in asthma among children. It is also thought that smoking during pregnancy causes asthma in children, and it certainly contributes to health problems in newborns, including low birth weight. Similar to alcohol consumption, smoking during pregnancy is not illegal, but because it is so dangerous to the fetus, any smoking increases risks to the newborn. Therefore, any responsible mother to be would certainly give up cigarettes at least for the duration of the pregnancy, and perhaps forever. Certainly, pregnancy is a great motivator to quit smoking if you haven't already and you currently smoke. With nine months off of cigarettes behind you, it should be a relatively easy transition to stay off of cigarettes once the baby is born. Certainly, if mothers nurse, the nicotine and other pollutants from the cigarettes get into the breast milk and are transmitted to the baby that way. Therefore, breast-feeding mothers also should not smoke, even if they don't do so around the baby. Smoking is still dangerous to breast-feeding infants even if the mothers who are nursing them do not smoke around them.

    Perhaps most surprisingly, one of the greatest triggers for the development of asthma these days in children is hygiene and cleanliness. In years previous, antibacterial products were not available. Soap and water were "good enough" for our mothers and grandmothers to keep their homes clean. Children also spent much more time outside playing in the dirt and getting dirty. These days, they spend their time on the computer. Therefore, children were exposed to and had to develop immunities to many types of different bacteria and germs that they no longer are exposed to as a matter of course. In addition, we are absolutely rabid about "antibacterial" products and think that any germ whatsoever should not touch our children or ourselves. However, this is not only not practical, but it actually flies in the face of common sense. We need exposure to bacteria and to germs to build immunities. If we do not get this exposure, one of the results is asthma. Therefore, it is prudent that we not use antibacterial products, but go back to plain old soap and water. We should also strive to have "clean" rather than "sterile" environments for both ourselves and our children.

    Another possible asthma trigger these days are the cleaning products themselves. Many of them are full of toxic chemicals, which can trigger asthma attacks. It may or may not surprise you to know that many of these products have products in them that are utilized in other capacities to actually make bombs! Simply put, we need to "get back to nature" and use simple cleaning products, such as soap and water, vinegar and baking soda. By doing so, at the very least we can ease asthma symptoms in children who currently have asthma. Perhaps, we can even reverse them.

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    Asthma Risk Higher For Infants Who Swim Indoors
    Poor ventilation, overchlorination can damage developing lungs, study says



    If taking your infant to swim class seems like a fun way of bonding-with-baby, you might want to think twice about the idea.

    That's because a new European study has found that infants who were regularly exposed to the chlorinated air of indoor swimming pools were more at risk for developing asthma than were infants who didn't swim indoors.

    "Our data suggest that infant swimming practice in chlorinated indoor swimming pools is associated with airway changes that, along with other factors, seem to predispose children to the development of asthma and recurrent bronchitis," wrote the Belgian researchers. They also found the effect was stronger for babies who swam indoors and were also exposed to environmental tobacco smoke.

    The findings appear in the June issue of Pediatrics.

    The researchers surveyed 341 schoolchildren from Brussels and their parents. At the time the study began, the youngsters were between the ages of 10 and 13. The children and their parents were asked about their asthma status, other environmental exposures, and whether or not they had gone to indoor swimming pools as infants.

    Forty-three children from that group had regularly been to indoor swimming pools in their infancy, according to the study. The children had to have had at least 2.5 cumulative hours on indoor pool exposure to be included in this smaller group.

    Blood samples were taken from the children to measure markers of lung health, and average air sample tests were obtained from the pools the youngsters visited.

    The researchers found that children who went swimming indoors as infants were 50 percent more likely to report wheezing, almost four times as likely to experience chest tightness, and had more than double the risk of experiencing shortness of breath, compared to the children who hadn't been regular swimmers as infants.

    The study also found that exposure to passive smoke alone didn't seem to increase a child's risk of asthma, but when coupled with indoor swimming, the risk of developing lung problems was even higher.

    The study authors suggest that the risk might be higher because exposure to chemicals, such as chlorine, may alter the lining of the lungs, predisposing youngsters to airway disease.

    Does that mean you can't ever take your baby swimming?

    "It certainly makes us reconsider taking these young kids swimming if it may be detrimental to lung development," said Dr. Alan Khadavi, a pediatric asthma specialist at New York University Medical Center in New York City. "But it's a small study, so I think it's too soon to tell parents that they can't take kids swimming. It's something to think about, but there's no direct link at this point."

    While disinfection of swimming pools with chlorine is essential for safe swimming, study author Alfred Bernard, the research director of the National Fund for Scientific Research in Belgium, said that parents and pool managers should be aware that chlorine-based disinfectants can be used safely only if their levels are maintained in an optimal range which allows the chlorine to minimize infections without increasing the risk of toxicity.

    "If levels are too low, infectious risks can increase, and if levels are too high, it is the toxic risks that can increase. Hence, the importance of hygiene and of carefully controlling the pH of the water to minimize the amount of chlorine needed for disinfection. Chlorine should not replace water filtration and hygiene to achieve a clear and blue water. Chlorine should only be used as a disinfectant and not a cleaning agent," advised Bernard.

    "If [swimming] is a regular activity, I can only recommend parents don't take their baby in poorly managed pools where water and air contain excessive levels of chlorine. Such pools can be identified by the very strong chlorine smell in the air or at their surface as well as by the irritating effects on the eyes or upper respiratory tract that one may feel after swimming. If it is [your] own pool, parents should avoid over-chlorinating the water," he added.

    "It is important to realize that studies on the safety of these chemicals for young children have started only recently. Thus, another cautious attitude for babies is not to leave them too much time in the water," Bernard said.

    He also recommended that kids should swim no more than 20 minutes and that parents should discourage infants and young children from drinking pool water.

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