Asthma is common among Australian children with approximately 15% of children having currently diagnosed asthma. Effective treatments for controlling asthma and allergy symptoms are available. However, there are no cures, so prevention is an ideal approach.
Studies show that babies are more likely to develop asthma, if there is a family history of asthma, if the mother smokes during pregnancy or if the baby is exposed to passive smoke. In many cases, asthma is related to a family tendency towards allergy. Avoiding
the development of food allergies may help to delay the onset of asthma. A simple way to avoid the development of food allergies is to breastfeed your baby for at least 6 months or to use special formulas if breastfeeding is not possible. There are also certain nutrients that may help to reduce the likelihood of allergies developing such as omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics.
Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the many nutrients that a baby gets from its mother during pregnancy and breastfeeding. As well as being important for the development of the baby's brain, these fatty acids help to protect against inflammation in the airways. A mother can help to make sure that her baby gets a good supply of omega-3 fatty acids by eating a diet rich in these fatty acids or taking a supplement during pregnancy. Natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseed oil and fish, especially mackerel and sardines.
Probiotics are live cultures of good bacteria found in the gut. One type of bacteria, Lactobacillius, may even help prevent food allergies. Taking Lactobacillus during pregnancy, which can be found in some types of yoghurt, probiotic drinks and supplements, may reduce the baby's risk of developing childhood eczema, which is another allergic condition. During pregnancy there is no need to eliminate foods from your diet that may cause allergies, unless you know that you are allergic to that food.
Avoiding common causes of allergies, such as dust mites, may be another way to delay the development of allergic conditions and maybe even asthma. Use low allergen bedding, such as feather pillows and quilts, which have substantially lower mite allergen levels than synthetics. Bedding (mattresses, pillows, quilts or doonas) can be protected with dust proof covers called encasings that reduce the levels of house dust mite. Do not use sheepskin or woollen underlays as under-bedding as they are warm, hold moisture and are the perfect breeding ground for dust mites. Where possible, wash bedding items weekly in hot water of 55�C or more.
Other measures of dust mite avoidance include damp dusting or using electrostatic cloths to clean hard surfaces. Consider replacing carpets with hard floor, have a dry and well-ventilated house, adequate floor and wall insulation and avoid evaporative coolers. Venetian blinds or flat blinds are easier to clean than heavy curtains. Washable curtains or external shutters are another option.
Does my baby have asthma?
Most people with asthma wheeze, but not everyone who wheezes has asthma. Wheezing is very common in the first few years of life. For most children it is temporary and does not mean they have asthma. Studies of babies and children have shown us that there are different types of wheezing ?Transient, Bronchiolitis and Persistent.
Transient wheezing occurs when a child has an infection and stops when the child gets better. Bronchiolitis is a common virus causing transient wheezing in babies, particularly those under 6 months of age. If your baby has a lung condition such as bronchiolitis it does not necessarily mean that they will develop asthma as a child.
Persistent wheezing continues beyond preschool years. Children with persistent wheezing are more likely to have allergies than children whose wheezing stops. Signs of allergy include eczema, hay fever or a runny nose without a cold. The combination of continuing wheezing and allergies, or parents having allergies or asthma, further increases the chance that wheezing will continue and asthma will develop.
Your doctor cannot be completely sure if your child has asthma until a lung function test is performed. Generally children need to be over 7 years of age before reliable results can be attained. It is important to understand that even if you follow all the advice mentioned here, there is still no guarantee that your child will not get asthma. If you think your child may have asthma, it is important to see your doctor who will structure an Asthma Action Plan specifically for your child to help manage their asthma.
Article kindly supplied by The Asthma Foundation - Victoria