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Times of India
5 May 2009
Pune, India

The number of children suffering from asthma in the city has almost doubled in the last five years, a study carried out by the Chest Research Foundation (CRF) here has revealed.

The study, revealed on the eve of World Asthma Day, was conducted in 17 randomly selected schools across the city on 3,909 children.Interestingly,asthma was found to be more prevalent amongst students in private schools (5.9 per cent) compared to their counterparts in municipal schools (4.7 per cent).

“The first study, completed in 2003, had shown that asthma prevailed amongst 2.9 per cent of schoolchildren in Pune. The study was repeated in 2008–2009 using the same tools and methods on the same population. We have found that childhood asthma is now prevalent amongst 5.4 per cent, a jump of over 80 per cent,” said chest physician Sundeep Salvi, who is the director of CRF.

Risk Factors
  • Children born through Caesarean section.
  • Those born in homes that use biomass fuel for cooking.
  • Motor vehicle pollution.
  • Children who receive mixed feeds during the first six months.
  • Children with family history of asthma.

Children at the 17 schools were given a questionnaire prepared by the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) followed by a medical check–up.

How come a bigger number of children suffering from the disease has been found at private schools than civic schools? Physician Avinash Bhondwe said that the difference could be due to factors like lifestyle, food habits, obesity, lack of exercise and urban indoor air pollution (mosquito repellent, coils, etc).

Obesity is indeed a growing problem among urban children, and there seems to be a strong link between obesity and asthma among children, Salvi said. “The study has given us a conclusive scientific evidence. Such a rapid growth in such a short span of time is unusual and worrisome. Though the study has been conducted in Pune, we fear that the findings may apply to the entire nation.”

Chest physician Nitin Abhyankar said, “Doctors and parents do not easily admit that the child has asthma. In the process, they deny the child a normal, active childhood. Worse still, if asthma is not properly controlled during childhood, it can cause permanent damage to the airways and lead to more difficult adult asthma.”

Salvi described the latest findings as a wakeup call. “We may not yet have a cure, but we do have inhalers to make a normal, active, symptom–free life possible. It is up to us to arrest the growth of asthma through education, avoidance of risk factors and proper management,” Salvi further said.

Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) Regional officer P K Mirashe said, “We need to check the sources of pollution to confirm that the rise in childhood asthma is due to an increase in vehicular traffic.”

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