Cozy woolens, hot tea and sun basking— yes winters have arrived! Living in a city where summers can be extremely oppressive, the chill in the air is undoubtedly a welcome change for everyone.
This is not true for a child suffering from asthma, for whom the cold winters mean frequent attacks and severe breathing difficulties. A chronic respiratory disease affecting 14 per cent of children round the globe, asthma is often associated with worsening of symptoms during cold winter months.
During winter months, rates of hospitalisation in children on account of asthma go up by many notches. In asthma, due to swelling in the lining of the airways which leads to narrowing of the airways and sticky mucus or phlegm build-up that blocks the airways, breathing is difficult and forced. During winters, the cold air causes airways to tighten further, making it even more difficult to breath.
Contrary to common perception, asthma, a reversible obstructive lung disease, caused by increased reaction of the airways to various stimuli is not an 'old man's disease'. Asthma is one of the most common chronic disorders in childhood, currently affecting about 7.1 million children under 18 years.
Cold weather is a major trigger for asthma symptoms. People with asthma say that cold air is a trigger for their symptoms and 90 per cent reckon that having a cold or flu makes their asthma considerably worse.
The key signs are— coughing more than usual, getting short of breath, wheezing, feeling a tightness in your chest and having difficulty speaking in full sentences.
Hospital admissions for asthma traditionally peak during periods of particularly cold weather. This can be due to breathing cold air into the lungs, which can in turn trigger asthma, as well as picking up colds and flu.
People whose asthma is well controlled are more likely to be able to withstand the risks of winter months. You can help keep your asthma under control by making sure you have a regular asthma review with your doctor.
It is important for parents to understand that with the right treatment and medications, asthma symptoms related to cold winters can be controlled and managed to a large extent.
Unfortunately, parents and caregivers are most often misinformed when they seek asthma treatment for their child. Knowledge about asthma, causes and its treatment options often perplexes patients and their families, say experts. It is therefore imperative for healthcare practitioners to educate parents and caregivers about early disease acceptance and importance of effective treatment modalities with minimal side-effects and fast action like inhaled corticosteroids, in other words inhalation therapy.
Inhalation therapy involves an inhaler pump to administer medication directly in the airway passage. The term 'steroids' often worries parents leading them away from the use of inhalers for their child. But in reality, the steroid used in asthma medication is a copy of steroids which are produced by our body naturally as a defense mechanism against inflammation. These are completely safe for children as well as pregnant women. Moreover, inhalation therapy's clinical efficiency for asthma has been proved by many studies.
Inflammation of the airways requires only a small quantity of the drug. When administered orally or through intestine, almost 200 times of the required medication is administered as only a fraction reaches the lungs. With inhalers, the medication reaches the airway passage directly and hence only a the required amount is inhaled in the body.
So, with such a simple solution available at hand, it's time to let your little one live free with inhalation therapy and enjoy winters to the fullest, without giving in to asthma.
The writer is Dr Jaideep gogtay Global Chief Medical Officer at cipla, peninsula business park, lower parel west, mumbai