Asthma is one of the most prevalent chronic, non-communicable disease most commonly diagnosed in childhood and persists life-long. The condition can be managed with medications but cannot be completely treated or cured. Most times the severity of the symptoms such as cough, breathlessness and tightening of chest decrease with age, it could be triggered by any of the many allergens the person is allergic to.
What causes Asthma?
Asthma characterized by wheezing is merely a hypersensitive response of the body to allergens. It mostly runs in families, transferred from parent to offspring. There is no exact cause for asthma, it is an autoimmune disease.
The common risk factors or allergens which trigger the inflammatory response are as follows:
- Allergens such as dust, pollen
- Mites in bedding, carpets, stuffed toys
- Tobacco smoke
- Chemical irritants
- Air pollution/ poor air quality
- Sudden exposure to cold air
- Strenuous physical exercise
Signs and symptoms of asthma
Asthma presents as following:
- Shortness of breath
- Persistent Cough
- Tightness of chest
FAMILY ALLERGY AND ASTHMA
As mentioned earlier Asthma runs in the family, if the parents have Asthma then the chances of the child acquiring asthma is pretty high. If the elder sibling has asthma, then the younger sibling might also have higher chances of ending up with asthma. That being said, it is not necessary that just because a family member has asthma the subsequent generation might have the condition. Hereditary diseases are quite complicated and are dependent on various factors such as the dominant and recessive traits.
Genetics plays a major causative role in childhood onset Asthma indicated by familial aggregation. The positive family history can be used to identify children at higher risk of acquiring asthma and hence treat promptly with early diagnosis.
In one of the studies conducted to assess the predictive value of positive family history as an indicator of risk for childhood asthma. This study included 33 studies from all geographic regions of the world. The prevalence of asthma was about 2-6% in the studies with the definition of family history differing from study to study as well as different types of asthma were included in it. Nevertheless, family history of asthma in one or more first-degree relatives was consistently identified as a risk factor for asthma.
Yet another study was conducted on school children in Southern Claifornia the prevalence of early onset persistent asthma, early onset transient asthma, late onset asthma and “wheeze and asthma-like illness without doctor diagnosis” – in combination with the common comparison group of “No wheeze or asthma”and their relationship with parental history of asthma
The questionnaire for the participants included basic demographic details and all possible allergens that one may be exposed to in a day-to-day life such as dogs or cats in the home, household vermin, houseplants, water damage in the home, mould or mildew in the home, gas stove use, air conditioner use in addition to medical history of parents and siblings.
The results of the study which included 5046 subjects about the role of parental history of allergy or asthma were as follows:
- Parental asthma was strongly associated with the prevalence of doctor-diagnosed asthma of all three types .Early onset persistent asthma generally associated more strongly with parental history of asthma than either early onset transient or late onset asthma.
- Parental history of allergy associated with childhood asthma less strongly than parental asthma .Parental history of allergy associated most strongly with early onset persistent asthma and least strongly with early onset transient asthma. For subjects with two allergic parents relative to none, higher prevalence of early onset asthma was noticed.
- Maternal and paternal histories of asthma related about equally with asthma outcomes in the child. Paternal history of asthma was slightly more strongly associated with early onset transient asthma than maternal history.
- The associations between parental allergy and the child’s asthma also differed little according to which parent was affected.
- Sibling history of asthma strongly associated with all three types of asthma even in the absence of parental asthma.
So according to above reports and the numerous studies conducted to study the relationship between the occurrence of asthma and a positive family history, most asthmatic conditions runs in families and is more often than not passed down to the next generation and the cycle continues.
With the advancement of science and technology we should be able to predict the occurrence of asthma in the offspring to be diagnosed and managed at the earliest in the near future with the help of genetic testing. Although there is no permanent cure for asthma, keeping it under control with the help of medications and avoidance of known allergens should help one lead a normal life without having to anticipate the worst every time.