7 Surprising Facts About Asthma

SURPRISING FACT #1

If your young child is exposed to certain environmental factors, she may develop asthma.

Being near traffic-related pollution is one such factor, found new research from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. And a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that chronic exposure to high levels of ozone and particulate matter can increase the risk of asthma in kids.

Meanwhile, research in Pediatrics has shown that kids who participate in an infant swimming program in a chlorinated indoor pool might experience changes in their airways that can lead to asthma. "Indoor pools present a higher degree of chlorine exposure because the chemical is released into the air," says Dr. Welch, editor-in-chief of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Guide to Your Child's Allergies and Asthma. This doesn't mean you need to avoid indoor pools if asthma runs in your family or if your child already has it, says Dr. Welch. But it's a good idea to steer clear if your child is having a flare-up of asthma, and you may be better off with outdoor pools in general.

One concern you can cross off your list of worries: day care. In a recent study that tracked kids from toddlerhood until age 15, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, in Charlottesville, found that toddlers who were around more children had a lower chance of developing asthma. You may not necessarily need to avoid pets, either. New research has shown that when young children grow up with a cat or dog in their home, they are somewhat protected from developing asthma and allergies.

This is partly because the pets expose young children to more germs, and this keeps the immune system from having an allergic reaction to what's in the child's environment. In fact, a study involving 13,524 children under age 11 found that those who grew up on a farm had up to a 78 percent lower risk of developing asthma, possibly because of all the bacteria they're exposed to from animals and their manure. Of course, kids who are allergic to cats or dogs can have asthma symptoms triggered by exposure.

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