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Why Is Asthma In Children Becoming More Frequent?

Aug 17, 2007
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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