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Alarming rates of asthma seen in UAE children

Dubai, April 30, 2012

In the UAE, 13 per cent of the population suffer from asthma with children accounting for 40 per cent of this total, which includes other prevalent allergies – one of the highest rates for children in the world, a report said.

Asthma affects approximately 235 million people worldwide, according to a World Health Organisation report.

Marking World Asthma Day 2012 (May 1), the Paediatric Department at the American Hospital Dubai is focusing on helping the parents of children sufferers better understand what can be done to help cope with and control the condition. Asthma is the most common chronic diseases of childhood and yet many parents know little about it.

Asthma is characterised by recurrent attacks of breathlessness and wheezing, which vary in severity and frequency from child to child.

When a child with asthma comes into contact with something that irritates the lungs, known as a ‘trigger’,  the lining of the bronchial tubes (airways) swell, causing the airways to narrow, muscles around it to tighten, and reducing the flow of air into and out of the lungs. As a result, this makes it difficult to breathe and causes wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath.

Every day, children are exposed to household and outside irritants, many of which are different asthma “triggers” that can cause an asthma attack. However, common causes include infection of the airways, ear, nose or throat, cigarette smoke, irritants in the air, air pollution, cold dry air, sudden changes in the weather, exposure to things that a child may be allergic to (allergens), exposure to pollen, dust (house dust mites), animals, mold, exercise, and emotional stress.

The severity of symptoms of asthma varies between children, from very mild to more severe. Symptoms can include excessive coughing, wheezing, labored breathing, tightness of the chest, and shortness of breath, and these symptoms are often exacerbated with physical activity and exertion.

Although asthma is a long term condition, it can be controlled. It is important to reduce the child’s exposure to asthma attack triggers and allergens, from smoking to wall paper, allergens can start at home, and particularly in the child’s bedroom.

Windows should be kept closed during the pollen season, especially on windy days when dust and pollen are blown around, and in the morning when pollen counts are at their highest. The house should be kept clean and dry to reduce mould and dust mites, and should also be kept free of pets and indoor plants.

Dust is one of the most common triggers and can be found all around the house in furniture, mattresses, pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, and rugs. For this reason, pillows and mattresses should be covered with dust-proof casings, and the room should be thoroughly cleaned on a weekly basis.

Cotton or synthetic blankets should be used, rather than quilts or comforters, and sheets and pillowcases should be washed in very hot water. Another way of reducing the amount of dust in a child’s room is to cover the air-conditioning outlet with glass fiber or cheesecloth filters. Wall paper and carpeting should be avoided in children’s rooms to limit opportunities for mold to grow, and it is important to ensure that bathroom exhaust fans are working correctly.

Once the triggers are defined, parents can help avoid contact with them to reduce the amount and severity of attacks, and can consult their pediatrician to establish the appropriate medication.

Some children have symptoms of asthma most days and have to take daily medication to help prevent the swelling and inflammation of the airways; others just need medication when they have the asthma symptoms, which open up narrow passageways to help relieve wheezing, breathlessness and the feeling of a tight chest.

Dr Amro Astal, consultant in Pulmonary and Respiratory Diseases at the American Hospital Dubai, said: “Asthma medication can be taken orally, by injection, or inhaled in aerosol form. The medication is split into two general groups: Relievers, also known as bronchodilators, which open up restricted airways to help relieve wheezing, breathlessness, and tightness of the chest; and Preventers which include anti-inflammatory drugs, which are taken daily to help prevent swelling and inflammation of the airways.”

“Preventative measures should reduce the instances and severity of allergic reactions, though the advice of a pediatrician should always be sought to establish the medical treatment that may be required to deal with the conditions when reactions do occur,” she concluded. – TradeArabia News Service




Tags: UAE | Dubai | Children | American Hospital | Asthma | Paediatric |

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