City witnesses rise in asthma cases

City witnesses rise in asthma cases

City witnesses rise in asthma cases

Only those who suffer from the dreaded disease called asthma know the pain of being an asthmatic. Unpredictable and violent bouts of coughing, breathlessness as if two invisible hands are throttling you, the handicap of having to stay away from sports activities and lifelong dependence on inhalers – there is a lot that asthmatics endure.

Extensive research over the years has proved that asthma is largely a hereditary disorder, that one is most likely to ‘react’ to pollen, dust, house mites and other allergens if he or she is ‘genetically predisposed.’ However, studies are now disclosing that a far greater number of people are falling prey to asthma year after year than they used to before.

An international report, some years back, estimated that no less than 300 million people worldwide are suffering from asthma, and this figure is rising by up to 50 per cent every decade. Though it is majorly a malaise of the developed world (Australia, Europe, US and South America share the maximum cases), it is fast catching up in the developing world.

Newer studies now reveal that India itself is nursing 30 million asthmatics, and of every 50 children in this country, six are likely to be asthma patients. Even though this statistic is far lesser than in a country like UK, where one in every five children is a sufferer, India is expected to attain this figure very soon.

Specialists like Dr Vikram Jaggi, director, Asthma Chest & Allergy Centre in Delhi and Gurgaon, says, “This development is not just apparent to doctors but the general public as well. Earlier, you would find one asthmatic child among 500 students in a school. Now you will find one such student in every section.”

“The primary cause for this,” he elaborates, “Is our increasing adoption of western lifestyles where we obsess over hygiene, vaccinations and antibiotic use for every childhood infection. A newborn’s immune system is like a clean slate which is developed by exposure to various germs. When it is kept idle, it starts reacting to innocuous things like pollen and dust.”

Just as an idle mind is a devil’s workshop, an idle immune system is an allergy producer, he cautions.

Some other lifestyle factors credited with making asthma ‘symptomatic’ are poor diet and stress. “In India, it seems, we have forgotten the concept of having home-cooked food,” says Dr Raj Kumar, head, Department of Respiratory Allergy, VP Chest Institute, “Children and even adults these days want to have only junk food items like samosa,
pizza and burgers.”

“Not only do these cause acid reflux and obesity which are very harmful for asthmatics, the colours and preservatives therein are also directly related to asthma,” he informs. Stress plays no less a role by releasing certain chemicals which constrict the airways causing asthma. Unfortunately, with our current lifestyle, stress has become inescapable, he laments.

A few years back, scientists at the VP Chest Institute conducted an extensive study across nine industrial and residential areas of Delhi, and discovered that a much higher number of children in the former city areas suffered from asthma than in the latter kind. Doctors say the situation has only worsened with pollution intensifying over the years.

“Though pollution has not been proven to cause new cases of asthma, its part in causing asthmatic attacks is firmly established,” underlines Dr Sai Kiran Chaudhary, Pulmonologist, Delhi Heart and Lung Institute, “Unfortunately, Delhi has no dearth of vehicles, factories or roadways. Construction work going on round the year is also a big contributing factor.”
“As far as possible,” advises the doctor, “asthmatics should carry inhalers. You never know the time, place or trigger allergen. It is better to prevent attacks. Treatment is much more difficult.”