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Times of India
20 May 2010
By Vishakha Sharma

The number of children suffering from asthma has almost doubled in Pune and a reason behind this could be the child’s proximity to highways and busy roads
Maria Cheraghi
of all the risk factors for child hood asthma a positive family history of asthma/allergies is the strongest for the development of asthma.The odds of developing asthma increase seven-fold if there is a positive family history. -Maria Cheraghi, researcher.

Does your kid suffer from asthma? Maybe its because of where you live. A study conducted by Mayo clinic and PhD student Maria Cheraghi has found that kids living or studying near highways or busy having higher risk of asthma.

The research conducted by the Chest Research Foundation in Kalyani Nagar showed that the prevalence of asthma in children in Pune has almost doubled (increased 1.8–fold) over a period of 5 years (From 2002 to 2008) and is on the increase. This research was carried out by one of their PhD students Maria Cheraghi. This study also won Maria, the Silver Travel Sponsorship from the European Respiratory Society.

Speaking to Pune Mirror, Maria talked about the points she studied. She said, “Of all the risk factors for childhood asthma, a positive family history of asthma/allergies is the strongest for the development of asthma. The odds of developing asthma increase seven–fold if there is a positive family history. Surprisingly, birth by cesarean delivery has emerged as a risk factor for development of asthma which increases the risk four fold. Cesarean deliveries have already been linked with development of asthma in the west but this is the first time in India when the link between the two is found.”

She continued, “Use of biomass fuel (kerosene, wood, cow dung cakes) and absence of separate kitchens increase the risk 3–fold and 2–fold respectively. Mixed feeding during the first 6 months of life, snoring, preterm birth, damp walls at homes and parental smoking are some other risk factors that increase the chance of getting asthma. But an important point to note is that apart from a positive family history and to some extent cesarean sections, all the other risk factors are avoidable.”

“Another fact is that there is not much difference in prevalence of asthma in between the two age groups which indicates that the asthma is poorly controlled in most children. The reason might be several myths and misconceptions related to asthma and inhalation therapies that prevail amongst general public which kind of keeps them from using inhalers and preferring tablets and syrups for their children thus inadvertently causing more damage to their lungs and causing a lot of suffering, attacks of breathlessness, cough, night–time awakenings, missing school, poor performance in school and in general, ill health and lost childhoods.” said Maria.

Avoiding Asthma
“All this can be avoided and asthmatics can lead an absolutely normal life without any restrictions just by the regular use of inhaled corticosteroids which are scientifically proven to be the most effective and safe for the control of asthma. Regular treatment with inhaled corticosteroids allows asthmatic children to live a normal life and enjoy their childhood just like other children do without falling ill repeatedly,” added Maria.

When Pune Mirror spoke to Dr Maj (Retd) Monica S Barne, programme co–ordinator, Chest Research Foundation, she said, “Maria’s study is an add on to the study of Mayo Clinic about kids living near highways having higher risk of asthma. We found proximity of schools /home to busy roads as a risk factor for asthma but when adjusted for other factors, this emerged as a confounding factor. However, there was a strong association between dry cough (which is sometimes the only symptom of asthma in some individuals) and proximity to busy roads.”

Taking Your Breath Away
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