According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 10 percent of America’s children are affected by asthma. And while doctors have yet to understand all the underlying causes of childhood asthma, they are sure that a child developing an overly sensitive immune system seems to be a common link in kids with asthma or a family history of the disease. Additionally, it’s a fact that exposure to cigarette smoke and air pollution at a young age as well as having respiratory infections before age 5 can also play a hand in the development of asthma in children. There are, certainly, other causes, though. And that’s why researchers are investigating some of the less obvious childhood asthma triggers. Here are some of the most surprising findings that may contribute to the onset of asthma in children:
In-utero Colds and Flu
Researchers in Germany found that the number of colds or viral infections a woman has while pregnant can significantly increase the odds that her child will have asthma. The researchers speculate the viruses and bacteria that cause those nasty colds and flus disrupt the environment of the womb, triggering the increased risk of asthma.
“In addition, these same children that had early exposure to allergens, such as house dust and pet dander, had increased odds of becoming sensitized by age 5,” Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology journal deputy editor Dr. Mitch Grayson said in a journal news release.
“When dust mites from the mother and child’s mattresses were examined, children with high dust mite exposure yet low bacteria exposure were more likely to be allergic to dust mites than those with low mite exposure and high bacteria contact,” he added.
The fix: It sounds obvious, but scientists say one reliable way to cut your child’s risk of asthma is staying healthy during pregnancy. That includes washing your hands regularly, coughing or sneezing into your arm (instead of your hand) and getting plenty of rest to reduce the risk of developing a cold or virus.
The use of acetaminophen by pregnant women and/or infants has been deemed a risk factor for childhood asthma, according to research conducted at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Mich.
The fix: Scientists continue to study this connection, so before treating a headache, fever or other aches and pains with acetaminophen, talk to your gynecologist or infant’s pediatrician about possible risks and alternative therapies.
According to the World Health Organization, roughly 15 million babies are born premature, or before 37 weeks gestation, every year. In addition for being at risk for heart and digestive problems, a new study says preterm babies born between 27 and 32 weeks are 50 percent more likely to develop asthma than their full-term counterparts. Babies born two months early were three times as likely to develop asthma as full-term babies.
The study’s author noted that it is common for preterm babies to develop respiratory issues because their lungs are undeveloped, adding that asthma affects 14 percent of preterm babies.
Additionally, risks of developing asthma were the same for preschoolers and school-age children suggesting children who are born early do not outgrow the risk.
The fix: The Mayo Clinic suggests proper prenatal care can reduce the risk of preterm labor, to lessen your child’s chance of developing asthma. And eat a healthy diet that includes the recommended amount of folic acid, calcium, iron and other essential nutrients as recommended by your obstetrician.
Education also helps.
“Doctors and parents need to be aware of the increased risks of asthma in premature babies in order to make early diagnosis and intervention possible,” says Dr. Jasper Been, lead study author from the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Population Health Sciences in Scotland. “By changing the way we monitor and treat children born preterm, we hope to decrease the future risks of serious breathing problems, including asthma. Our findings should help find better ways to prevent and treat asthma and asthma-like symptoms in those born preterm.”