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In five years,asthmatic children doubled in city,says study

As the world observes Asthma Day on Tuesday,parents in Pune have a serious cause for worry. A new study by Chest Research Foundation reveals that children suffering from asthma have almost doubled in the city in five years.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
May 5, 2009 10:18:50 pm

As the world observes Asthma Day on Tuesday,parents in Pune have a serious cause for worry. A new study by Chest Research Foundation (CRF) reveals that children suffering from asthma have almost doubled in the city in five years.

The first study,involving 3,000 children completed in 2003,showed that asthma was prevalent among 2.9 per cent of schoolchildren in Pune. In the present study,3,909 children from 17 schools were observed and it was seen that asthma prevalence was 5.4 per cent. “This is an almost 80 per cent jump,” says Dr Sundeep Salvi,director of Chest Research Foundation.

The study in randomly selected schools was conducted by Maria Cheraghi as part of her PhD thesis with the University of Pune. Dr Sundeep Salvi,director of CRF,supervised the study.

The study involved 1,565 students from municipal schools and 2,344 from private schools. Asthma was seen to be more prevalent among students of private schools (5.9 per cent) as compared to those in municipal schools (4.7 per cent).

Dr Salvi attributed the difference to factors like lifestyle,food habits,obesity,lack of exercise and urban indoor air pollution.

He says children born in homes using biomass fuel for cooking,such as kerosene and wood,showed a three-fold risk of getting asthma as compared to children in homes that use LPG for cooking. Also,children born in homes that did not have a separate kitchen had a significantly increased risk. Children who lived in homes that had damp walls also face a higher risk. “Children born by Caesarean Section had a four-fold risk of having asthma as compared to those born by normal delivery,” says Salvi who is presenting these findings at the European Respiratory Society Annual Congress,to be held in Vienna,Austria,next September.

Talking about Caesarean delivery quadrupling the risk,Dr Salvi noted that similar observations have been reported in other parts of the world.

“Babies born by normal delivery come in contact with the mother’s normal bacterial flora in the birth passage,which stimulate immunological responses in the child that have several benefits. Children born by Caesarean delivery do not come in contact this useful bacteria and their immune system develops in a manner very different from babies exposed to these bacteria,” Salvi explained.

He further said,“The abnormal immune response in babies born by Caesarean delivery is believed to lead to asthma as they grow older.”

“Doctors have been reporting an increase in asthma cases. The study has given us some conclusive scientific evidence,” says Salvi.

“Such a rapid increase in cases in such a short time is unusual and worrisome. Though the study has been conducted in Pune,we fear the findings may apply to the whole nation. The asthma threat is for real and our children need help,” he said.

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