According to the World Health Organization (WHO), asthma is a chronic lung disease that affects people of all ages. This is caused by swelling and stiffness of the muscles around the airways, which makes breathing difficult. A recent study showed that bronchial asthma has been on the rise since the 1970s, and now affects an estimated 4 to 7 percent of the global population. In India, about 3.3 percent of children are affected by bronchial asthma in childhood. In fact the worldwide number may 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 Paediatrician, SL Raheja Hospital, Mahim – A Fortis Associate, spoke to Zee News Digital about asthma in children in India, its causes, asthma management and much more.

Q. Has asthma increased in children in the last five years?

Dr. Asmita Mahajan: The incidence of asthma among children has increased in the last five years due to increase in environmental pollution, especially air pollution. They are more common in urban areas with high pollution.

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Q. What are the symptoms of childhood asthma?

Dr Mahajan: Some of the common symptoms of childhood asthma include:

Wheezing sound while exhaling
• Shortness of breath, which may interfere with sports/even routine activity
• Chest tightness or tightness
• Frequent cough. that gets worse when the child has a viral respiratory infection, or when they exercise, or when they are exposed to cold air

Q. How is asthma different in children than in adults?

Dr. Mahajan: Children may have trouble sleeping due to shortness of breath/cough. In addition, children with asthma often suffer a delayed response to bronchitis/respiratory infections. They may also have to face a lot of tiredness and exhaustion due to this chronic disease.

Q. Is it curable?

Dr. Mahajan: Asthma is curable, not curable. However, some children 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 which leads to inflammation of these airways. In most cases, treatment medication attempts to solve this problem. In addition, oral or inhaled bronchodilators, steroids, and anti-allergy medications are some of the medication options for asthma.

Asthma treatment depends on the age of the child and the severity of the symptoms. The treatment method, whether it be a spacer, inhaler, or nebulization, is best decided by the treating team based on individual diagnosis and prognosis. Oral medications may be required according to the severity of the disease.

Q. Does asthma medicine have long term health effects?

Dr Mahajan: Some of the side effects of asthma medicines are:

• Local irritation in the mouth and throat
• Oral candidiasis (thrush) is more common in adults than in children, but not to a lesser extent. However, this side effect can be prevented by using a spacer device and rinsing the mouth with water after inhalation.
• Long-term oral steroids can cause growth suppression and bone osteoporosis. But inhalation only delays growth, and does not affect final adult height. This suggests that a child’s development can ‘catch up’ even when they have asthma.

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Q. Can children with asthma participate in sports? Are there any precautions to be taken?

Dr Mahajan: Children can participate in sports in a controlled environment. Exercise can sometimes trigger an attack, so the environment must be kept clean. If the trigger is well handled, a child can participate, but proper instructions must be given to the teacher to help when needed. More importantly, exercise helps control weight and reduce asthma symptoms. Some activities that rarely provoke symptoms include volleyball, downhill skiing, softball, baseball, and taekwondo. These activities do not require long, rapid breathing. In some cases, gymnastics can sometimes aggravate the symptoms. Yoga is one of the best forms of exercise for children with asthma. Physical activities should be included in the daily routine of the child after a detailed discussion with the doctor.

Q. Any other relevant point that one should remember?

Dr. Mahajan: Prevention of triggers is essential, so asthma patients should avoid triggers like dust, smoke, pigeon dung, contact with construction sites and pets. It is equally important to treat viral illness promptly and reduce exposure to cold foods and cold air. keep the humidity in the house to a minimum

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