Asthama is the most troublesome of the respiratory disease. It is characerised by variable obstruction of the airpassage, resulting in wheezing. But by no means every 'wheeze' in childhood is asthma. Wheezy bronchitis, for instance, can be easily mistaken for asthma. Many children are prone to 'wheezy' bronchitis in the early years, but outgrow this as they mature.
Bronchial asthma can occur at any age from infancy to over 90 years. It has,however, been estimated that it occurs in about 10 per cent of children and five per cent of adults. About one-half of the cases develop before the age of 10 years. In childhood, boys suffering from this disease outnumber girls by 2:1.
The child suffering from asthma appear to be struggling for breath. Actually, they have more trouble in exhaling than inhaling because the air passage of the small bronchi become clogged and constricted with mucus, thus making it difficult for the patient to breathe out. All asthamatics have more difficulty in the night, especially when asleep.
In case of asthma in children, there are recurrent attacks of cough and wheezing, accompanied occassionally by fever and breathlessness. Breath-lessness in case of child-patient does not come in the form of paroxysmal attack. The child with asthma is likely to be thin. The chest expands poorly and may be deformed, and expiratory bronchi is heard in the lungs. The child tends to be over-dependant and lacking in self-confidence. He may tend to worry more than most children and become interested in his own reactions and fears. One of the reasons may be a fear in him that his breathing will stop, perhaps while he is asleep.
Asthama is caused by variety of factors. For many children, it is an allergic condition resulting from the reaction of the system to the weather, food drugs, perfumes and other irritants which vary with different children. Allergy to dust is most common. Some children are sensitive to the various forms of dust like cotton dust, wheat dust, and paper dust, some pollens, animal hair, fungi and insects, especially cockroaches. Foods which generally cause allergic reactions are wheat, eggs, milk, chocolates, beans, potato, meat and fish.
Asthama may also result from the abnormal body chemistry involving the system's enzymes or a defect in muscular action within the lungs. Quite often, however, asthma is precipitated by a combination of allergic and non-allergic factors, including emotional tension, air pollution, infections and hereditary factors. It has been estimated that when both parents have asthma or has fever, in 75 to 100 per cent cases, the offspring also has allergic reactions.
The natural way to treat asthma consists of stimulating the functioning of slack excretory organs, adopting appropriate diet patterns to eliminate morbid matter and reconstruct the body.
Mud-packs applied to the abdomen will relieve the fermentation caused by undigested food and will promote intestinal peristolysis. Wet packs should be applied to the chest to relieve the congestion of the lungs and strengthen them. The grown-up children should be encouraged to perspire through steam bath, hot hip bath, hot foot bath and sun bath. This will stimulate the skin and relieve congested lungs. The procedure for these baths have been explained in the Appendix.,
No one should be allowed to smoke in the child's bedroom and no member of the family should smoke in the house,as the tobacco smoke in the atmosphere can harm the asthmatic children. Emotional upsets at home should be avoided as they make the asthmatic child worse. And above a,, the parents should always remain cool and calm when their children get attacks of asthama.
Diet plays an important role in the treatment of asthma. Ideally, the diet of child patient should contain a limited quantity of carbohydrates, fats and proteins which are acid forming foods, and a liberal quantity of alkaline foods consisting of fresh fruits, green vegetables and germinated gram. Foods which tend to produce phelgm such as rice, sugar, lentils and curd and also fried and other difficult-to-digest foods should be restricted. The last meal should preferably be taken at least two hours before going to bed.
Children with asthma should be encouraged to eat less than their capacity, eat slowly and chew their food properly. They should drink six to either glasses of water a day, but should avoid taking water or any liquid with meals. Spices, chilies and pickles, too much tea and coffee should also be avoided.
Honey is considered beneficial in the treatment of asthma. It is said that if a jug of honey is held under the nose of an asthma patient and he inhales the air that comes into contact with the honey, the breathing becomes easier and deeper. The effect lasts for about an hour or so. Honey usually brings relief whether the air flowing over it is inhaled or whether it is eaten or taken either in milk or water.
Turmeric is regarded as an effective remedy for bronchial asthma. The child-patient should be given half a teaspoon of turmeric powder with half a glass of milk two or three times daily. It acts best when taken on an empty stomach.
The use of garlic has also been found beneficial in the treatment of asthma. One clove of garlic boiled in 15 ml. of milk can be given daily as an effective medicine to the child-patient in the early stages of asthma.
During the attack, mustard oil mixed with little camphor should be massaged over the back of the chest. This will loosen up the phelgm and ease breathing.
Parents who suffer from some kind of allergy should take special precaution for their children. Breast-fed infants have much less chances of getting allergic to certain things than bottle- fed babies. It is believed that the major cause of allergy in children lies in feeding babies foods such as cereals, meat, corns, whole milk , etc. before they reach the age of 10 to 12 months. These foods cause allergic reactions as babies lack the proper enzymes needed for their digestion before that age. Babies should be breast-fed for atleast eight months as this is nature's way of providing all the required nutrients during this period.
Other precautions considered necessary for preventing asthma in children are boiling milk before giving, delaying of inclusion in the daily diet foods which commonly cause allergy such as egg, whest, fish, and coco, keeping children in environment free from dust, air pollution and damp climate, keeping away pet animals from the house and adopting all possible measures to protect children against bacterial and viral infections.