When you’re a kid, breathing should be easy. Laughing, playing, and having fun should be your work of the day. Working hard to get a breath in should be the last thing on your mind.
A Naturopathic Doctor’s Personal Story
By Eric Lewis, ND
When you’re a kid, breathing should be easy. Laughing, playing, and having fun should be your work of the day. Working hard to get a breath in should be the last thing on your mind. Unfortunately, more and more kids are having a hard time with asthma.
Trust me, I know. I vividly remember when I was a child several late night trips to the ER with my dad driving very speedily to get me help for asthma attacks. Yucky medicine caused me to hide from my parents when I needed to take it. Pausing to use my inhaler before and during sports marked my teenage years.
These are some of the many reasons I want to help parents reduce, avoid, or even eliminate the same outcome for their kids.
Understanding Asthma in America
20 million Americans, including 9 million children, are affected by asthma according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Asthmatics have two features in common: a sensitive airway tract and hyper-reactivity to environmental or intrinsic triggers.
Environmental triggers include:
- Allergens like dust mites, pollen, mold, or pet danders.
- Irritants such as tobacco smoke, fumes, air pollution, chemicals, or odors.
- Weather conditions such as cold air, changes in temperature or humidity.
Intrinsic factors include:
- Infections like colds, viruses, flu, sinus or upper respiratory infections.
- Strong emotions such as anxiety, fear, or stress.
- Exercise induced asthma is also very common.
Why are these triggers so important to mention?
First of all, identification of what contributes to your child’s asthma symptoms can be important for knowing what to avoid in the future.
Secondly, and most important, understanding what is triggering asthma is often the key to finding the right solution to know how to treat your child. Asthma from exposure to strong chemical smells should be addressed very differently than asthma that begins after a viral infection.
A Natural Health Approach to Dealing with Childhood Asthma
Regardless of the trigger for your child’s asthma, what is even more significant to address is their airway reactivity. After all, everyone is exposed to air pollution, tobacco smoke, and changes in the weather. Why does an asthmatic suffer when someone else is breathing freely?
Susceptibility is a key concept to understand when we talk about asthma. Certain factors that have been identified that make a child susceptible to asthma include:
- Family history
- Presence of allergies
- History of upper respiratory infections
Some less common, but equally important, factors are also observed in childhood asthma. A study reported in the June, 2007 issue of the journal Chest revealed that the overuse of antibiotics under the age of 1 was associated with greater risk for the development of asthma. When antibiotics are used for ear infections, upper respiratory infections, bronchitis, etc., susceptible children demonstrate a higher risk for becoming asthmatic later on. Considering that a large number of childhood illnesses are caused by viruses, and therefore non-responsive to an anti-bacterial antibiotic, this results in a double whammy for kids: no difference in healing up from a virus and a greater risk of breathing difficulties later in life.
Another lesser known factor that increases susceptibility to childhood asthma is low stomach acid production. A study in 1931 demonstrated that 80% of children with asthma produced insufficient stomach acid. This deficiency means that a child will not be able to properly digest his foods, leaving him or her vulnerable to food allergies and inflammation in the digestive system. A strong link exists between digestive health and the immune system. In order to enjoy a well functioning immune system that fights off infection and responds appropriately to asthma-inducing triggers, we must have a well-performing digestive system.
Traditional Asthma Treatments Plus a Holistic, Naturopathic Approach Equals Healthier Children
The first step in protecting your children from developing asthma is to understand the possible causes. No matter what the stimulus, it is very important to work with a naturopathic doctor or holistic health practitioner who understands asthma and its many complexities. Many natural health professionals are experienced in the underlying causes of and natural remedies for asthma.
Be sure to check with your local naturopathic doctor, acupuncturist, homeopath, or herbalist for complementary care. And always follow the advice of your medical doctor; asthma can be a very severe condition and medicine is often required to ensure safety. Look for future articles with specific tips for preventing infant, childhood, and adolescent asthma.