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1 in 3 children in Delhi experience shortness of breath; over 50% report allergic symptoms: study

The prevalence of asthma was found to be higher among children in Delhi. The spirometry test detected asthma in 29.4 per cent of children surveyed, while it was detected in 22.6 pe cent of children in Kottayam and Mysuru.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
September 2, 2021 10:35:00 am
1 in 3 children in Delhi experience shortness of breath; over 50% report allergic symptoms: studyA total of 3,157 children in the age groups of 13 -14 and 16- 17, all from private schools, were surveyed as part of the study. (Express Photo)

Asthma and allergic symptoms were higher among children in Delhi when compared to kids in Kottayam and Mysuru, where average PM2.5 levels are lower, according to a recent study.

The study was conducted by Lung Care Foundation and Pulmocare Research and Education Foundation, both not-for-profit organisations working in the field of respiratory diseases and lung health.

A total of 3,157 children in the age groups of 13 -14 and 16- 17, all from private schools, were surveyed as part of the study. Lung function approaches its peak around these ages, and kids attain maximum lung function at around 17 to 18 years, said Dr. Arvind Kumar, Chairman, Institute of Chest Surgery at Medanta Hospital, and founder of Lung Care Foundation, who was part of the team that conducted the study.

From Delhi, 928 children participated, while 1040 kids from Kottayam and 1189 from Mysuru participated in the study. Children who were living in these cities for at least ten years were chosen.

The children answered a questionnaire besides taking a spirometry test to diagnose asthma or airway obstruction. More children in Delhi reported allergic and respiratory symptoms in the past 12 months, as opposed to children in Kottayam and Mysuru, the study found.

In Delhi, 52.8 per cent of the children reported sneezing, while the figure stood at 39.3 per cent for Kottayam and Mysuru. While 38.4 per cent of children in Delhi reported cough, the corresponding figure for Kottayam and Mysuru was 18.9 per cent. A total of 31.5 per cent of children in Delhi reported shortness of breath, while only 10.8 per cent of children in Kottayam and Mysuru reported the same issue.

This points to a “significant difference between children in Delhi, who are constantly exposed to high levels of pollution, and those who live in greener areas,” said Dr Sundeep Salvi, chairman of the Pulmocare Research and Education Foundation, Pune.

The prevalence of asthma was found to be higher among children in Delhi. The spirometry test detected asthma in 29.4 per cent of children surveyed, while it was detected in 22.6 pe cent of children in Kottayam and Mysuru. Asthma was found to be more prevalent among boys in all three places than in girls.

The prevalence of obesity was also higher in children in Delhi (39.8 per cent of children studied), when compared to Kottayam and Mysuru (16.4 per cent of children).

Obesity is an important risk factor for asthma, Dr. Salvi said. At the same time, the study found that air pollution appears to have a double effect since it can cause both obesity and asthma, he said. The quality of air can determine the possibility of being obese, though it is still unclear how. “Some particulate matter when inhaled might have chemicals that affect the endocrine system giving rise to obesity,” he said.

Dr. Anurag Agrawal, pulmonologist and director at CSIR-IGIB, said that the limitation of the study was that there could be other factors beyond air pollution that could be different in the three places, like lifestyles and diet. These other factors, including outdoor exposure, could influence the risk of asthma. “But the link between obesity and asthma is robust,” he said.

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