Lowering risk of asthma for children


March 15, 1994|By Modena Wilson, M.D. and Alain Joffe, M.D. | Modena Wilson, M.D. and Alain Joffe, M.D.,Special to The Sun

Q: I have asthma. It gave me a lot of trouble when I was a child. My husband and I want to have a baby soon. Are there any precautions I can take to keep my baby from getting asthma?

A: You may not be able to prevent your child's having asthma even with the best of intentions. Asthma is common. More than 2 million American children have it. It is the most frequent cause of school absence and of hospitalization during childhood. It seems to be getting more common rather than less. And it does tend to run in families.

But let's get back to prevention. We can think of three things you can plan on right now that may lesson your child's chances of asthma attacks. First, plan to breast feed your baby . Babies who are breast-fed have fewer episodes of wheezing. They are less like to get early respiratory infections which may trigger asthma symptoms. Second, maintain a household that is smoke-free. Third, plan your nursery decor so that dust is minimized. Household dust collects in carpets, drapes and stuffed animals even with frequent cleaning. Children who are likely to wheeze often develop allergies to some of the particles in household dust which makes their wheezing worse.

But don't feel guilty if your child does develop asthma, even even though you've followed our suggestions. Your preventive efforts may not be able to outweigh heredity.

Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.

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