Dubai, UAE: Pets and ornamental plants in the home could trigger asthma attacks in children, warned doctors in respiratory medicine on Wednesday.
In general, triggers include tobacco smoke, allergens (like pollen, mould, pet dander and dust mites), and outdoor pollution, according to the global bodies World Health Organisation (WHO) and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Asthma causes wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and night-time or early morning coughing.
In the UAE, a 2012 survey on the ‘Population prevalence of asthma’ published in BioMed Central states that the asthma burden and uncontrolled asthma were frequent with 52.8 per cent of children and 17.1 per cent of the adults, missing school and work respectively due to asthma. (The survey had 1,220 participants in all seven emirates.)
Doctors from the University Hospital Sharjah (UHS) cautioned against certain pets, birds and houseplants that could contribute to increasing asthma incidence or worsening cases.
They said certain pets, birds and houseplants secrete antigens that can lead to an increase in cases of respiratory sensitisation.
They also said that failure in seeking prompt medical advice and treatment, especially in cases that involve children, could worsen symptoms.
Dr Mohammad Al Masalmeh, Pulmonary and Respiratory Consultant at UHS, said in a media statement, “It is has been found through the diagnosis of numerous asthmatic cases that animals, particularly cats, and certain bird species as well as a wide variety of ornamental plants, such as conifers, may affect asthma sufferers.”
He advised families to pay greater attention to their children’s health and minimise exposure like sharing beds with pets, and checking the beds and furniture to make sure they are free of bedbugs.
Dr Nawar Tayara Sayed, specialist paediatric pulmonologist at Isis — The French Clinic, Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC), told Gulf News, “House plants and animal dander can be triggers. To confirm if this is the case, a child should undergo allergy tests — blood or skin test.”
Dr Sayed explained that if asthma is not controlled well in a child it can lead to permanent changes in lung function. “Due to the small airways, an asthma attack in kids is more serious,” she said.
Dr Bassam Mahboub, Consultant Respiratory Physician at Rashid Hospital, echoed a similar view. He told Gulf News, “An action plan to control asthma and handle asthma attacks is essential even for kids because they are affected more than adults. An asthma action or management plan is a written plan that a patient develops with his or her doctor to help control symptoms.”
© Gulf NewsOct 2013