Overweight children face risk of getting asthma: Research

Sunday, 31 August 2014 - 6:20am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

A study found that relative risk of asthma increased by 55% for every extra unit of BMI among children. Experts give their take

If your child is overweight, there's one more reason for you to worry. In addition to the usual, risk of obesity and its associated health complications there's a risk of him/her getting asthma too. And if your child is overweight and has asthma too, here's what you need to know:

The study
Health experts in the UK have warned about childhood obesity fueling an asthma epidemic. In the past, studies have suggested that increasing waistlines could up childhood asthma cases. And now researchers at Bristol University have linked an increased risk of the respiratory disease with obesity. In fact, the study found the relative risk of asthma increased by 55 per cent for every extra unit of body mass index (BMI). Although the underlying causes of asthma are not known some experts think obesity may be one of the causes.

Link between obesity and asthma
Obesity is on the increase world over including in India. Asthma is also increasing in incidence. There are several genetic and environmental factors interact leading to asthma. Dr Uma Ali, consultant pediatrician, Lilavati Hospital says, "While there is increasing evidence linking the two, one should not ignore the triggers for asthma including inhalants such as dust, pollen, mites and passive smoke. There are many ominous lung problems associated with obesity including sleep apnea, pulmonary hypertension, poor expansion of basal regions of the lung which have very serious consequences. Asthma in an obese person tends to be more severe because of the already existing poor lung physiology. The asthma needs to be treated. Side by side, a weight loss program will definitely help."

Childhood obesity can lead to asthma
"Yes, childhood obesity can increase chances of asthma. In fact obesity (BMI > 30) at any age increase asthma. Reasons include: Increased mechanical load on respiratory system; obesity per say, aggravates the airway inflammation in asthma; and the fact that genetic studies shows an interlink between obesity genes and asthma predisposing genes," explains Dr Prahlad Prabhudesai, Chest Physician, Lilavati Hospital.

Numbers are increasing
"Childhood obesity can increase the chances of asthma in children. This happens in obese adults too, as the basic mechanism of asthma remains the same in adults and children. Leptin is a hormone related to obesity. If one is obese, there may be leptin resistance which could trigger a cascade of nasal congestion, rhinitis and sometimes asthma. I have seen many cases of obese children with asthma between the ages of eight to 14. The numbers are increasing, especially in the city population. It is more commonly seen in girls," informs Dr Sanjiv Badhwar, ENT surgeon, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital.

What should you do?
If your child has asthma problems, you should consult a chest physician. Any nasal symptoms should be evaluated by an ENT specialist. You should try to reduce weight of your child, if he or she is obese. Exercise is the best treatment for obesity and to reduce weight. Exercise also helps in reducing the frequency of asthma attacks. If a child who has already got asthma is obese, weight reduction would definitely reduce the frequency of asthma attacks, advises Dr Bhadwar.
In obesity and asthma, asthma preventive medication should be regularly given. Weight loss by diet, playing outdoor (exercise) is important as a part of treatment adds Dr Prabhudesai.

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