Factors such as antibiotic use, C-section birth, and early-life respiratory infections linked to poor asthma control in children
A recent study conducted by the University of Alberta has provided further insights into the connection between perinatal health and early life events and their impact on asthma control in children.
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“The problem is that if (childhood asthma) is not well controlled, it is a major driver of emergency hospital admissions and is within the top 10 causes of disability-adjusted life years lost among children,” says senior author Maria Ospina, adjunct professor in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry and associate professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences at Queen’s University.
“The cost to the healthcare system is also quite big,” Ospina adds. “If children do not have good asthma control, they also miss school days. So the earlier we can do things to control asthma, the better.”
Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that affects millions worldwide. It is characterized by airway inflammation and constriction, leading to breathing difficulties. Common symptoms include wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. While it often begins in childhood, it can persist or develop in adulthood.
Asthma management aims to control symptoms, prevent exacerbations, and improve quality of life. Medications include bronchodilators to relax airway muscles and anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce inflammation. Asthma triggers vary but may include allergens, respiratory infections, smoke, or exercise. Monitoring peak flow and having an action plan are vital for effective self-management. Asthma, while not curable, is manageable with proper care, allowing individuals to lead healthy lives.
According to Statistics Canada, asthma is the most prevalent chronic disease among Canadian children, affecting up to 13 percent of them. Although around 50 to 60 percent of children with preschool asthma no longer exhibit symptoms by age six, the long-term consequences on lung function persist into adulthood.
The study, which examined data from over 7,200 children born in Alberta between 2010 and 2012 diagnosed with asthma before age five, identified several factors associated with poor asthma symptom control in preschoolers. These factors include antibiotic use, gestational diabetes, smoking during pregnancy, C-section births, summer births, and severe respiratory infections during early life.
Lead author Linn Moore, who conducted the research while a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Alberta, highlighted the importance of the prenatal and early life periods in development, encouraging families to be aware of these risk factors and consider prevention strategies. Moore noted that while some risk factors are beyond control, awareness is critical.
Ospina underscored the study’s aim not to stigmatize mothers but to promote healthy choices during pregnancy. She emphasized the need for support and information for expectant mothers to make informed decisions that can positively impact their children’s health. Ensuring mothers have the necessary support and information can lead to more effective strategies for managing childhood asthma symptoms.
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