Can You Prevent Asthma?
Because no one knows why some children develop asthma while others don't, it isn't possible to prevent a child from getting it. Still, there are certain factors that increase a child's asthma risk. Being aware of these issues is the first step in ensuring that your child's lung disease is promptly diagnosed and properly managed.
- Genetics. Your child has a 30 percent chance of developing asthma if you or your spouse has the ailment. Those odds jump to 70 percent if both of you have the disease.
- Gender. Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with asthma than girls are, but the disease affects adult men and women equally. Experts aren't sure what role sex hormones play in the development of the condition.
- Race and ethnicity. African-Americans are 20 percent more likely than Caucasians to have asthma. Hispanic children, especially those from Puerto Rico, are also at an increased risk.
- Weight. Children who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop asthma than their normal-weight peers are, a 2013 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology reports. A child's risk of asthma grows as his body mass increases.
- Environmental allergies. Up to 80 percent of children with asthma also suffer from allergies. Dust mites, pollen, mold, and pet dander are known asthma triggers.
- Food allergies. Asthmatic reactions to food allergies--such as wheezing and breathing difficulties--are rare. They are more likely, however, to occur in infants and children.
- Skin conditions. Up to 70 percent of children with eczema, a skin allergy, develop asthma. A Public Library of Science Biology study suggests that substances secreted by damaged skin may trigger symptoms.
- Reflux. Asthmatics are twice as likely as non-asthmatics to suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The exact link between the two isn't clear. Acid flow from reflux may damage the lining of the throat, airways, and lungs. Another possibility is that the airways constrict to keep out the refluxed acid.
- Medications. The use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen for pain or beta blockers for migraines has been shown to cause or worsen asthma.
- Viral infections. Signs of asthma may first appear when a child has a respiratory illness like a cold, reflux, croup, or bronchitis. In fact, these ailments often mask asthma symptoms, making diagnosis more difficult.
- Secondhand smoke. Up to 26,000 children develop asthma each year after being exposed to secondhand smoke, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
- Exercise. It's common for children who have asthma to experience symptoms while engaging in vigorous physical activity such as running. But in some kids, exercise may be the only thing that causes a flare-up. It's recommended that children with exercise-induced asthma use an inhaler at least 15 minutes before participating in physical activity.
Video courtesy of Too Small to Fail, toosmall.org.
Copyright © 2013 Meredith Corporation.
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