The Asthma Corner

LISTEN TO DR.PAUL TALK ABOUT ASTHMA AND THE ENVIRONMENT:

How Is Asthma Affected By The Environment?

Asthma is most often triggered in children by a respiratory infection, such as the common cold. But the presence of other irritants - especially cigarette smoke; tiny insects called dust mites; animal dander, especially from cats; plant pollen; air pollution, deodorants or perfume - often make asthma symptoms more frequent, more severe, and more difficult to control. Other asthma triggers that can bring on an immediate asthma attack include, exercise, cold air, and in older children - emotional stress.

Asthma symptoms often appear immediately after exposure to a trigger. But sometimes the presence of such things as dust or cigarette smoke can have less obviously immediate effects - though still be harmful. Sometimes symptoms appear only hours or even days after exposure. This can make it difficult to identify what a child reacted to. For example, a child may play with a cat and seem to have no immediate symptoms. But in a so-called "late reaction," symptoms appear only later on, which is an indication of inflammation.

Inflammation resulting from irritants can increase the child's sensitivity to such triggers as those mentioned above. In other words, a child constantly exposed to irritants such as cigarette smoke or dust mites, is more susceptible to having an asthma attack brought on by a trigger, such as a cold - as compared to a child not regularly exposed to irritants.

But by decreasing your child's exposure to environmental irritants and allergens, you can actually reduce your child's need for medication. Maintaining a healthy breathing environment is an essential part of the treatment program.