Seemingly, asthma is becoming increasingly common in the United States and Europe. Visit any school these days will find as many asthma inhalers among students and their Game Boys 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 generally believed that pollution does not cause asthma, but it certainly can exacerbate symptoms. The EPA, or Environmental Protection Agency, checks air quality throughout the United States every day and then displays the data on the Internet and other media. Keep track of this pollution in the area (called the Air Quality Index, or Aqi) and if levels are over 100 that day, stay indoors or limit your outside.
Another reason for increased asthma may be that smoking among children is increasing, but it is dropping in all groups. Before 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 is public knowledge that smoking increases lung cancer and other long illness, as well as other disorders of health. Therefore, it is important for parents to not only encourage their children to smoke and talk to 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.
In addition, the increase in obesity among children, as well as lack of exercise, contributes to the rise in asthma in children. It is also believed 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 the risk of newborn. Therefore, any responsible mother to be would certainly give up cigarettes at least during pregnancy, and perhaps forever. Certainly, pregnancy is a great motivator to quit smoking if you have not already and you smoke now. With nine months off of cigarettes behind you, it should be 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 child so. For mothers, breastfeeding also should not smoke, even if they do not so the child. Smoking is still dangerous to breast-fed infants if mothers who are nursing them do not smoke around them.
Perhaps most surprisingly, one of the biggest 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 mud and get dirty. These days, they spend their time on the computer. The children were treated and had to develop immunities to many types of different bacteria and germs that they no longer be 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 germs to build immunities. If we do not get this effect, 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 cleaning themselves. Many of them are full of toxins, 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 used in other sizes 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 least we can ease asthma symptoms in children who currently have asthma. Maybe we can even rotate them.