Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the respiratory system indicated by labored breathing, chest constriction and coughing due to inflammation of bronchi.
‘Pediatric Asthma’ or simply ‘childhood asthma’ begins in childhood itself. In the recent years there is a significant increase in the rate of incidences of pediatric asthma. Over 10 million of children are suffering with Pediatric Asthma in US alone.
The reason behind children being more susceptible to asthma attacks is that their airways are narrower compared to that of adults. Thus, pediatric asthma can produce more severe emergencies in them by exposure to slightest allergens. Hence, it should be immediately indentified and treated.
Pediatric Asthma Causes:
Pediatric Asthma results from sensitization to substances causing asthma, called as ‘Triggers’.
The common triggers include:
- Cold weather
- Animal hair or protein
- Chemicals in food or air
- Tobacco smoke
- Viral infections like common cold
In response to these triggers from environment release of antibodies occurs which are intended to engulf the ‘triggers’, making the inside walls of airways to inflame, swollen, constricted with increased mucus resulting in spasms and finally an asthmatic attack.
These are vital and make the person more susceptible to pediatric asthma increasing sensitivity to the triggers.
The genes contributing are:
Interleukin (IL) – 4 and IL-13:
The IL-4 gene produces IL-4, a cytokine which helps the differentiation of T-cells to T2- cells inducing type 1 hypersensitivity and increasing lymphocyte and mast cell count in body. IL-13 is also released from IL-13 gene which acts on epithelial cells. This leads to inflammation and tissue damage and ultimately to asthma.
Tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha): This is a pleiotropic inflammatory cytokine, expressed in mast cells and present in bronchoalveolar fluid in higher concentrations. These genes are responsible for asthma severity and bronchial hyperactivity
Pediatric Asthma Symptoms:
The pediatric asthma is characterized by the symptoms like difficulty in breathing fast breath intakes, shortness of breath, tightened chest and cough.
But sometimes the pediatric asthma episodes could be really alarming. These emergency symptoms include difficulty in breathing, bluish color of face and lips, severe anxiety, increased pulse rate, reduced alertness, sweating.
Pediatric Asthma Risk Factors:
Risk factors are the determinants for risk of developing an illness in an individual. The risk factors for pediatric asthma could include:
Gender: In the early childhood, boys are more prone to develop asthma than girls. But after puberty the latter are at more risk.
Ethnicity: Risk of developing pediatric asthma is also dependent on race. African-American children are at greater risk than Caucasian. Genetic factors may contribute to this along with their life style and residing location.
Urban life: This is strongly associated to pediatric asthma. Children in urban areas develop asthma easily due to environmental factors like air pollution, pollen etc. This factor can be strengthened by fact that even African American children in rural areas have little risk of developing childhood asthma.
Low Birth weight: These infants are more liable to develop pediatric asthma during their childhood.
Complications of pregnancy: Specifically those involving mother’s uterus such as post partum hemorrhage, insufficient placenta, restricted growth of uterus lead to increased risk of pediatric asthma in children born.
Obesity: In obese people there is increased risk due to more weight pressing on lungs which in turn prompt hyper-reactive responses in airways. This makes the person more likely to develop pediatric asthma.
Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD): This increases the risk of developing asthma.
On the other side high vitamin-D intake, avoiding smoking during pregnancy reduces risk of developing asthma in children.
Hence, avoiding exposure to asthma causing triggers can significantly decrease the chances of developing asthma in children. For those having asthma in their family history, taking care of risk factors and culprit allergens help in decreasing scope of pediatric asthma. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can help in preventing emergency asthma attacks.