The increasing asthma burden in Indian children – causes and prevention

indian child asthma1Asthma is among the most common chronic diseases in children, leading to disability as well as school absenteeism. Childhood asthma is associated with geographical location, environment, and race, as well as behavior and lifestyle. Its impact on family and childhood is considerable, due to the chronic nature of the disease. India is one of the most densely populated countries and is experiencing rapid urbanization. Pollution is considered a significant problem associated with the rapid modernization of many cities in India. It is not surprising that the prevalence of asthma is increasing rapidly, although the underlying reasons remain largely unknown. Many studies from India have documented the changing prevalence of asthma in various parts of India [1-4]. Unfortunately, these studies’ methodologies were not standardized or validated. In order to make it easier to compare results, the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) Committee created a standardized protocol, using a questionnaire for teenage children to complete[5].

Key Point: Our summary from research studies of childhood bronchial asthma indicates a high prevalence of bronchial asthma in Indian children. There is a significant association found between breastfeeding up to 6 months of age and the reduction of asthma, and therefore exclusive breastfeeding must be encouraged. As pollution is found to be a very important risk factor for the occurrence of asthma, it is recommended to reduce the exposure of children to smoke and other air pollutants. There is certainly a need to carry out a large study in different regions of India with a standardized protocol to build strong evidence on the asthma prevalence and prevention in our children.

Asthma burden in different parts of India

Asthma can cause significant morbidity in children. In India, it has been shown to affect up to 10% of children in some areas, but it varies widely in different regions and populations (see Table 1). It can cause children to be absent from school, and can lead to office and emergency room visits, and hospitalizations.

In the recent study carried out by Verma et al. in a rural block of Haryana, in children under 5 years of age, it was found that about 51% of the 2,250 patients had respiratory problems. The prevalence rate for asthma was found to be 23% (520/2250) [1].

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