5 Ways to Lower Your Child's Risk of Developing Asthma
It can be heartbreaking to watch a child deal with the symptoms of asthma. As a parent, you feel helpless as they struggle for breath or wheeze and cough while lying in bed trying to fall to sleep. More than 25 million people in the United States have asthma and over 7 million of them are children. While it can affect anyone at any age, it usually starts early and can last a lifetime.
What Is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic lung disease. When a person with asthma is exposed to something in the environment that triggers their symptoms, the airways that carry air in and out of the lungs will swell. This swelling causes the muscles around the airways to contract and tighten, which narrows the airways even more. Cells in these airways produce more mucus than usual, which further narrows the airways.
When this vicious cycle starts, the person suffering from asthma will find it hard to breathe and will cough involuntarily as their body attempts to clear the mucus from their airways. The physical symptoms are unpleasant and dangerous, and can also lead to stress, anxiety and panic attacks as the person struggles to breathe.
Reducing the Risks
There are several strategies you can put in place as a parent to lower the chances that your child will develop asthma, or reduce their symptoms if they already have it:
- Take Fish Oil During Pregnancy: A recent clinical study suggests that mothers who consume fish oil during the third trimester of pregnancy may reduce their child’s chance of developing asthma by as much as one-third. While more research is still needed on the benefits of fish oil for asthma prevention, pregnant women should talk to their doctor to determine if they are getting enough of the fatty acids DHA and EPA found in fish oil.
- Breastfeed Your Baby If Possible: Lung infections are among the most common triggers for asthma attacks. Since breastfeeding for four to six months has been shown to improve a baby’s immune system, it may help them avoid lung infections and the asthma attacks they trigger.
- Get a Dog: Research shows that exposure to dogs and other animals during the first year of life was linked to a 13 percent lower risk of developing asthma later in life. Living on a farm with many animals conferred an even greater benefit for asthma prevention. However, if your child is allergic to animals, this strategy obviously will not work.
- Avoid Exposing Children to Dust Mites: Reduce dust mites, a common asthma trigger, by using “allergen-impermeable” bedding and keeping indoor humidity low. If possible, you should also remove carpeting and stuffed toys from an asthmatic child’s bedroom.
- Don’t Smoke Around Your Child: Avoid smoking during pregnancy and don’t smoke around your child to reduce their chances of developing asthma or triggering their symptoms. Secondhand smoke increases their risk of asthma and other respiratory diseases.
There currently is no cure for asthma. By following these strategies, you can potentially help your child avoid asthma completely or effectively manage their symptoms.