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strong family support may improve asthma outcomes for children

Considered as the leading cause of chronic disease among children, Asthma is prevalent in all countries, whether developed or underdeveloped. In fact, over 80 per cent of asthma deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), occur in low and lower-middle-income countries. At least one in every 10 asthma patient globally lives in India. Globally, the economic costs associated with asthma exceed those of TB and HIV/AIDS combined.

Asthma can begin at any age (even in the elderly), but most children have their first symptoms by age 5. The number of cases has been increasing day by day for unknown reasons.

Earlier Spirometry was in use for a long time to diagnose asthma but with the latest developments, the researchers at the respiratory medicine department of King George’s Medical University (KGMU) have identified a biomarker to detect asthma through a simple blood test.

Generally, we hear of providing a conducive environment, free from allergens, insects and pollutants (cause of 90% childhood asthma and 50% adult asthma), to children with asthma to help them cope with the disease. Have you ever thought of dealing with your child’s asthma through better family relationships? A new study reveals how a favourable neighbourhood helps one’s child manage asthma and its outcomes in a journal called ‘Pediatrics’.

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The study in its findings revealed how social conditions in the neighbourhood along with environmental conditions play an equally important role in affecting or managing asthma in children.

To reach the findings of the study the researchers focused on a particular factor that whether the children suffering from asthma are being protected by their positive and supportive family from the negative effects of other people.

“We found significant interactions between neighbourhood conditions and family relationship quality predicting clinical asthma outcomes,” said lead study author Edith Chen. He further added, “When children lived in neighbourhoods that were high in danger and disorder, the better their family relationships, the fewer symptoms and activity limitations they had, and the better they are pulmonary.”

In contrast, Chen also mentioned, “when children lived in neighbourhoods that were lower in danger and disorder, their symptoms, activity limitations and pulmonary functions were generally good, and the nature of their family relationships didn’t really matter.”

The study is based on a sample of 308 youths, aged 9 to 17 years, diagnosed with asthma. Google Street View images were used to code neighbourhood conditions around their families’ home addresses, giving them a more objective indicator of the level of neighbourhood danger and disorder that a participant is likely experiencing on a daily basis.

Then the participating children were interviewed about their relationships with their families and the level of support, conflict and trust they have with their families to determine clinical, behavioural and biological asthma outcomes in these children.

The study is very important to the field of paediatrics because it’s easier for families to provide better emotional support to their children and building trust in them than change their neighbourhood.

It’s highly possible that if paediatricians can provide suggestions to families about how supportive relationships can help with managing their child’s asthma while at the same time shield them from neighbourhood stressors it will certainly help in minimizing the disruption in routines of those children and their families but this is still speculative at this point and the research will proceed in future with a wider sample including the families of those children affected by asthma and the ongoing neighbourhood difficulties that many of these families face.

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