Childhood diseases, especially of the chronic kind, are more common than ever. Infants and young children these days are more susceptible to fever, cough, cold and other infections than kids were 20 years ago. This may be attributed to a poor diet and lifestyle habits of parents along with poor quality of air and food available in current times.
According to expert paediatric doctors, one ailment that has most commonly plagued children in the age group of 0-6 is wheezing. While this condition is usually temporary and can be cured over time, it may also be a symptom of asthma that may manifest during adult life. Hence, it is crucial for parents to be vigilant and take preventive measures early on.
Asthma is a chronic disorder of the bronchial tree, characterised by complete or partial reversible airway obstruction due to inflammation. The condition may improve spontaneously or may subside only after specific therapy. Although it is common to talk about asthma as one disease, there are many different types of asthma like allergic asthma and non-allergic asthma, allergic bronchopulmonary mycosis, aspirin-induced asthma, adult-onset asthma, asthma with fixed airflow obstruction, exercise-induced asthma, cough-variant asthma, work-related asthma, nighttime (nocturnal) asthma, and asthma caused due to obesity. The earlier the condition is detected, the easier it is to control the symptoms and effects by taking appropriate preventive measures.
Asthma is typically diagnosed based on symptoms, a physical examination, and lung function tests. Diagnosis of asthma in children is difficult because of the complex nature of the disorder and multiple underlying causes with similar symptoms. Also, noisy breathing is certainly not uncommon among infants and many new parents may not
recognise a wheezing condition until it becomes serious. In the past, lung function testing was not possible before the age of about five years. However, advanced diagnostic methods have enabled early detection and improved the chances of childhood diagnosis.
While there is no certain way to prevent asthma, there are certain things that may reduce a child’s chance of developing asthma if the genetic disposition exists. Reducing exposure to known allergens, such as dust mites, may delay or prevent allergy
or asthma symptoms.
(The author is chief of laboratory services, RV Metropolis, Bengaluru)