Almost half of all babies born in developed countries will have asthma symptoms during the first five years, but in Bermuda one in five will have a firm diagnosis of asthma by their sixth birthday.
Asthma and allergies are usually genetic, however in recent years there has been an alarming rise in the numbers of children who have no family history of the allergy.
Numerous studies show that our homes and lifestyle may be the cause so here are some of the conclusions from the studies, and some suggestions to help prevent your child from developing asthma or allergies.
Prevention starts before the birth of your baby and before conception if possible.
Studies show that diesel fumes may damage our lungs and indoor smoke will increase the risk of a baby being born prematurely.
A baby is more likely to be admitted to hospital during the first five years of life with breathing difficulties if they have been exposed to smoke.
Try to avoid travelling along busy roads during peak times.
Never take a baby in a buggy along a road, as the baby is at the same level as the exhaust pipe and will get most of the fumes.
Small babies are far happier to be held in slings.
If a vehicle has heavy black emission, block your nose and pull over — you do not want those fumes in your airways especially when you are pregnant.
Never allow anyone to smoke in your home.
If a member of the household smokes they must go outside and should actually have a smoking shirt or jacket and leave it outside; third-hand smoke is now considered a high risk for young babies.
Simply breathing smoke from someone’s clothing may affect the tiny airways of your baby.
Low levels of vitamin D can lead to asthma and allergies.
Children don’t play outside as much as they used to — TV, computers and electronic toys are more appealing these days.
Expectant mothers please get out in the fresh air, walk on the beaches and the parks, and when your baby is born make sure that they have some fresh air every day.
You’ll feel better too, and everyone sleeps better after a walk in the fresh air.
Many paediatricians now prescribe vitamin D supplements for babies and children and many adults also take them.
Studies show that low levels of antioxidants in expectant mothers can lead to a much higher risk of asthma and allergies.
Children who don’t eat enough fresh fruit and vegetables are more likely to cough and wheeze in childhood.
Expectant mothers, I suggest you make a chart and tick off each time you have a portion of fruit or vegetables and aim for not just five portions a day but eight to 10.
Parents — do the same for yourselves and your children. You may be surprised to find they are only getting five portions a week.
Do not send snack bars and processed cheese packs in lunch boxes but rather fresh fruit and veggies with dips, which by the way, children love.
Cut the fruit and veggies up at the weekend and store in airtight containers ready to fill the lunch boxes each day.
Studies show that if our environment is too clean the immune system becomes bored and the chance of developing asthma is greater.
This is interesting. I do know that children growing up on farms where they play in the haystacks, roll in the mud and muck out the animal stalls are highly unlikely to get asthma.
I am not going to suggest you stop cleaning your home but I am going to say, please stop using all those chemicals, sprays and aerosols and stop being obsessed with artificial scents.
I feel that the ‘Queen of Clean’ who loves a spotless home is probably also filling it with chemicals which will irritate our lungs.
Expectant mothers and parents everywhere, please get rid of all the chemicals in your home, open the windows every day and clean your home with a vacuum, damp mop or steam cleaner, and use microfibre cloths, which will do the cleaning for you.
Simply throw them into the washing machine at the end of week and save hundreds of dollars too.
Studies show that in recent years babies lungs’ are taking much longer to develop. One of the reasons for this is that babies are sleeping on their backs and not spending as much time on their tummy.
For generations babies have slept on their tummies and soon after birth they start to lift their upper bodies and do little press-ups, as they want to explore their surroundings.
While they do this they expand their lungs, helping them to develop. Now parents are told to put their babies to sleep on their back due to the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
Babies also spend far too much time sitting in chairs especially in daycare. There are bouncing, vibrating, rocking chairs and swings. There are car seats, buggies and Bumbo seats!
Encourage plenty of tummy time.
Whenever your baby is awake roll them over onto their tummy and have toys for them to reach.
Have a large safe play area on the floor, either have an activity mat or simply an old comforter or quilt.
Make sure it is comfortable or your baby will not like tummy time. The interlocking rubber tiles which are very popular with parents are actually very uncomfortable for small babies.
Encourage babies to reach for toys — baby gyms are excellent but can be totally overwhelming with far too many toys dangling in front of the baby.
Many toys hang so low the baby doesn’t have to reach at all.
I suggest you have one or two toys only on the gym, or save the money and get down on the floor with your baby and hold one toy at a time in a wide range.
Encourage your babies to reach, stretch and open their airways and so develop good strong healthy lungs.
Liz Boden is the president and founder of asthma awareness charity Open Airways. For more information about preventing asthma before your baby is born contact Liz Boden at 232-0264 or e-mail email@example.com. Website www.openairways.com.
Oh Baby 2012!