A prolonged cold lasting over 15 days can be warning signs of asthma and other allergic reactions to air pollution, that constrict airways.
Renowned interventional pulmonologist and Indian Association for Bronchology president, Dr HJ Singh, said that during a recent survey, it was found that most parents usually did not take severe and prolonged cold of their child seriously enough. He said that 70% of asthmatic patients were found to have had a history of prolonged battles with cold in their childhood.
“It was also found that chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways has largely affected the children aged between 4-7 years. The inflammation causes recurrent episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and cough particularly at night or early morning,” he said, adding that parents usually mistook it as just an incidence of long cold.
“In the absence of proper treatment in the beginning, children are at risk of asthma,” he said.
Terming 'allergy' as a major reason behind increase in asthma patients, Singh said that smoke, dust, allergens like pollens and change in weather, also act as triggers for increased incidences of asthma amongst children.
“Over 12% of students up to 17 years of age in Punjab are asthmatic. These miss more than 30-day classes every academic year. Asthma also affects a student's learning ability. In adults, it leads to less productivity,” he said, adding that the boys were comparatively more affected from asthma than girls.
He said that abnormal response of the human body towards environmental allergens was the major reason in causing this disease.
“The main predisposing factors including allergens exposure, viral infection, small size at birth, diet, tobacco smoking and environmental pollutants are instrumental in causing asthma especially amongst the children,” he added.
“Lungs' functioning of the children, who start taking inhaled corticosteroids at an early age after being diagnosed with asthma, are found to be much better life,” he said, adding that asthma was a significant burden in terms of healthcare costs, less productivity and reduced participation in family life.
There is need for parents to take note of the symptoms as mild as chest pain, nausea, prolonged cold and cough to severe ones such as wheezing, shortness of breath, bronchitis and even cyanosis. “There are incidences of children acquiring infections during harvesting season, weather change or due to pollen grains,” he said, adding that inhalation therapy and inhalers are most effective treatment to cure asthma.
“Parents sometimes restrict participation of their wards in sports and games fearing they will develop an asthma attack. These patients are fully fit to undertake such activities. Rather such activities enhance stamina. They can partake milk products, bananas and citrus fruits as well,” he said.
On keeping irritants at bay, he said: “Bedcovers, curtains, usual source of dust mites, should be periodically cleaned before being put to use. The less the furniture the better. Moisture-free habitat is most comfortable. These patients must avoid pets,” he added.
“Asthma is not completely curable, but it can be contained to a large extent. Following a treatment plan in consultation with the doctor can help a lot.”