Skip to comments.An Epidemic No One Understands
Posted on 11/30/2006 9:46:43 PM PST by neverdem
When our first son developed asthma as a 3-year-old, my husband and I felt pretty much blindsided. We were only a little less shocked when the same thing happened to our second son, at the same age.
The disease turned out to be tenacious, and for years both boys needed inhalers or a nebulizer machine several times a day to prevent asthma attacks that could keep them up half the night, coughing and wheezing.
Both had eczema, too, and the kind of food allergies to nuts, peanuts and shellfish that can lead to fatal reactions.
What caused all this? My husband and I were mystified, because neither of us had asthma or life-threatening allergies, nor did our parents or siblings. I do have hay fever and allergies to cats and dogs, but I had always considered my symptoms just a nuisance not a bad omen for the next generation. My husband isnt allergic to anything.
But we seem to have been caught on a rising tide that no one fully understands. Our sons were born in 1984 and 1987, and we encountered an awful lot of children their ages who had the same illnesses, far more than we remembered from our own generation.
Statistics suggest that something strange was occurring in those years. From 1980 to 2003, the prevalence of asthma in children rose to 5.8 percent from 3.6 percent, an increase of about 60 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Other estimates from the disease centers show an even bigger increase in the asthmas rates for younger children: a 160 percent jump in those younger than 5 from 1980 to 1994. But changes in data collection starting in 1997 make it hard to compare the figures before and after that year.
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
I'm not concerned. I'm sure we'll evolve our way out of it.
"But we seem to have been caught on a rising tide that no one fully understands. Our sons were born in 1984 and 1987, and we encountered an awful lot of children their ages who had the same illnesses, far more than we remembered from our own generation."
No, it's REAGAN'S FAULT!
Interesting but I think asthma has been overdiagnosed, frankly. It seemed to be, for awhile, the disease du jour in California. I know that during that period addressed in the article, my family doctor diagnosed asthma in me and my two daughters and prescribed medication (inhalers). However, we didn't have asthma, never have yet I'm sure we are part of the statistics of the asthma "epidemic".
Interesting article. There are hundreds of items in the average grocery store with 'may contain' on the label. Many manufacturers don't know exactly what is in their own product according to their own labels. It seems to defeat the purpose of labeling ingredients.
Dry humor is the best. Thanks for the laugh!
Me too.....was having some breathing problems, esp. in winter.....so they said I had asthma....gave me an inhaler...which I hardly used, and then through away....I believe it was part of Menopause....yeah, I really mean that.....your hormones do weird things to you....got it all fixed now.
Now, as for CHILDhood asthma.....what about all the indoor carpet? Tightly built homes? Less time spent outside in fresh air? And, too much milk!
I agree with that. Include the isolation from farm living. I think I read that kids who grow up on farms has lots less asthma than city kids. My city kid husband had asthma as a child but has now outgrown it although he still has hay fever. I spent some time on a farm in my preschool years and no asthma.
And solid foods too soon.
Just keep on importing people from third-world toilet stalls. I recently got boosters for 11 diseases the military origanally gave me including a flu shot. I got sick for a week a few months later with an upper-respiratory infection that imitates TB. Just keep on welcoming exotic viruses here. Maybe we need a new smallpox or polio virus to "cull the herd".
I think it is because of the way kids grow up nowdays. In short children today are brought up in a "bubble" and their immune systems are not allowed to develop.
They do not play outside, they also live in houses where the windows are never opened. They spend the vast majority of their early years never exposed to their natural environment and thus never build immunities to pollens and other things in the air. Hell, I grew up in a house with both parents who were heavy smokers, so did the rest of the kids on my block. None of us ever developed Asthma or any other respritory problems. We also spent every waking moment we had when not in school playing outside.
The freaked out, overzealous parents of today have to dunk their children and everything they might come in contact with in Lysol and Purell Hand Sanitizer, thus they do not develop immunities to run of the mill bacteria/viruses that have been around forever. When we were kids we did things like *GASP* drink out of the hose, share a bottle of pop without pouring it into individual glasses and our parents version of "dunking us in Lysol" was making us take a bath before going to bed because we were muddy and dirty from playing outside all day.
When I was a child I had just about every childhood illness around-Mumps, Measles, Chicken Pox, Whooping Cough, etc.. Sure it was no fun and I still have some Chicken Pox scars but I also have a highly developed immune system.
With that being said, I have seen studies showing that food additives, airborne contaminants and other chemical additives in cleaners causing allergic reactions which cause asthma-like conditions. And unfortunately, treating these things makes us a weaker and weaker species since nobody is allowed to develop their own antibodies.
Perhaps. But my daughter nearly died because her asthma was treated too routinely. She suffered an attack while driving and thought that she had time to get home. When she neared our town, she realized she would have to stop for help. By the time the paramedics arrived she was unconscious and the paramedics were down to the last step in their process before she responded. They were almost convinced that she would die before they could transport.
My research following this incident revealed that we had not properly educated my daughter to recognize and deal with the severity of her asthmatic symptoms. She was not able to recognize the onset of an attack early, and she did not appreciate the potential severity of an attack and the consequences of not handling it properly.
A key tool for educating her was an inspirometer. This device readily indicated that I am able to draw air into my lungs at twice the rate of my wife or my daughter, due to my larger lungs and airways.
After some experimenting with the inspirometer, my daughter was able to understand that her ability to breathe was reduced during an attack to a small fraction of the air she could normally breathe.
Also, she was able to realize that her need for air could be dramatically reduced by eliminating physical activity. An amount of air which is sufficient for comfortable resting would be entirely insufficient for an activity like driving a car.
Finally, she was able to develop a sense of when an attack was coming on, before the symptoms were at their worst. This helped her to anticipate the need for cessation of activity, medication, and access to help.
I believe that it is borderline negligence to diagnose a patient with asthma without training and educating them with an inspirometer.
Around here there is ragweed pollen. They have very big spores. If one gets in your nose, you are going to have red eyes and a red nose and sneeze a lot. That's to prevent weeds from growing out of your nose:)
You want to know what's interesting? This article doesn't include the incidence of asthma in Africa.
And you want to know what else? It's lower than it is in the industrialized world--about the only disease that I can think of that is this way (outside of those induced by distinctly industrial phenomenoms). Funny thing is, low income African-Americans are the most susceptible in the US.
I've seen some evidence that suggests that the parasites that rural Africans are exposed to may decrease the incidence of asthma in the population, priming their immune system to avoid the IgE sensitivity you see with asthma.
Well, if the kids of a NYT contributor have it, it must be an important, newsworthy epidemic.
FReepmail me if you want on or off my health and science ping list.
And this is probably a good example of the parameters of the discussion.
Global warming? ;)
Maybe a lot of those cases are what would now be described as exercise induced asthma. I wonder how many of those folks still kept engaging in vigorous activities as they aged?
I guess why that's why there is wheezing, shortness of breath, deoxygenated blood, elevated levels of carbon dioxide in the blood and a decreased forced expiratory volume over time. Measuring deoxygenated blood, elevated pCO2 and blood pH requires sticking a needle into an artery to confirm the respiratory acidosis. They like to use pulse oximetry as a substitute.
There used to be a site calles "oxybusters.com" that chronicled the rise in asthma to the use of MTBE. I think that was the cause.
My husband and I have asthma, and I can tell you we were not born in 1984 or 1987.
There used to be site called "oxybusters.com" that had detailed information about the effects of MTBE. I am not saying MTBE is the only reason for a rise in astma but it sure caused a lot of problems.
My brother is 38, he had childhood asthma, it never slowed him down. Inhalers, allergy shots the whole nine yards. He played sports through college, and still runs. The allergist said even though back then it wasn't recommended, the fact that he was so active, in spite of the asthma, helped him in the long run.
I agree with that theory. I read somewhere that the immune system is like a muscle: it needs exercise to maintain its integrity. Now that may be an old wives' tale but who knows? The problem today though is separating factors that might cause asthma from factors that merely parallel it (there's a technical word for that but it's too early in the morning for my brain to kick in, especially on Fridays when I am mentally incompetent pretty much all day).
Is it pollution, lack of pollution, MTBE, cigarette smoke, too much emphasis on antibiotics and cold medicine, genetics, hyper-hygiene, on and on? Some of those factors could be a cause, some just happening at the same time. Asthma is a real disease as I know from my husband's experience. I only point anecdotally to my own experience in saying that at least three diagnosed cases of asthma really aren't asthma so whether it is an epidemic may be academic.
You are probably right. Those with genuine asthma need to understand the condition and be prepared to deal with it at the onset. My point is that the doctor in our case took a complaint that it was "hard to breathe" on the first and only visit regarding this symptom and diagnosed asthma on the spot, after twenty seconds of listening through the stethoscope. He prescribed an inhaler, which was never used, and voila, we were part of the asthma "epidemic". I think the doctor took the diagnosis far too lightly and that impacts people like your daughter with genuine, life-threatening asthma.
A couple of years ago, a British doctor (it was a woman, but I forget her name) thought it might be that kids are overimmunized today -- nobody's allowed to get what used the standard childhood diseases (you mention them!) and this leaves their immune systems out of whack.
Both my older bother and I had a history of childhood asthma and my brother has a severe peanut allergy, yet both of us were born in the 1940s. Our father who was a family practice physician for more than 50 years had many young patients with similar childhood asthma problems. This is NOT a new problem.
And don't even get me started on peanut alergies!
What's up with that?
Babies & Solid Foods
The optimal age for the introduction of selected supplemental food should be six months, concluded Dr. Fiocchi. Particularly in children with family history of allergic disease, attention must be paid to the introduction of hens egg, peanut, tree nuts, fish, and seafood.
(Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 2006;97:1021)
Keep out the turd world.
Probably not. Assuming there is a necessary genetic component, we'd have to kill asthma carriers, or otherwise prevent them from reproducing. Better neonatal and pediatric care is ensuring that children with asthma live to sexual maturity, allowing their genes to propagate. If susceptibility to asthma is universal to humankind, we need to mutate a variant that isn't susceptible.
Big kudos to all the FR epidemiologists; now we know that asthma is caused by exercise, lack of activity, pollution, lack of pollution, allergens, lack of allergens, viruses, lack of viruses, immunization, lack of immunization, solid food too early, and solid food too late. Personally, I think it's rays.
Could it have been shag carpet?
Most of the folks in the world are stilling having to deal with the real parasites (mostly due to contaminated water) so they have very few allergy issues even though they are surrounded by dust, pollen, and all kinds of allergens. Their eosinophils are just too busy to get worked up over the little stuff.
An oximeter clipped to the tip of your finger gives the quickest, most accurate picture of your oxygen transport system.
This is for information, not an advert!
Sounds plausible -- wouldn't be the first time people got rid of one problem, only for the "cure" to introduce more -- but different -- problems. (The mythological many-headed Hydra comes to mind!)
A food processor will run multiple batches of different produces on his machinery each day. If you process something with peanuts, wash down, then process something without nuts, it is probably legally safer say "may contain peanuts" or "processed on machines that were used to process peanuts" than to leave the warning off.
Asthma and allergies are auto-immune deseases.
That means your own immune system is attacking its own tissue.
The cause of these problems seems to be that when the kids are growing up, they are not exposed to enough dirt, enough bacteria and enough viruses to properly train the immune system to attack foreign invaders only and not your body's own tissue.
So today you have an immune system that evolved in a time when kids where getting sick nearly every day from the dirt, bacteria and viruses they were running into on a daily basis.
We have an immune system that is finely tuned to fight infections 24 hours a day but it is not getting trained on what to fight early in life and it is not getting exposed to enough foreign invaders on a daily basis to keep it busy.
Accidents happen, the system gets out of proper control and now our active immune systems are causing allergies and asthma.
Let you kids go out and play in the dirt the way they were supposed to.
Or do some research on the few doctors who are experimenting with injecting people with different levels of different foreign bodies in order to reset the immune system. There has been some good results to date.
I got asthma in my 40s (really have it, not pretend) from living in a valley that had a lot of plywood and particle board mills. Formadehyde in the air, big time. In fact, I later learned that valley has the highest incidence of asthma and related respitory complaints in the US.
I moved away, still have the asthma.
If the "hard to breathe" condition is actually present during the doctor visit, then that would be a perfect time to use the inspirometer to get a reading of the amount of constriction. It is possible that a stethoscope could detect the additional noise that a constricted airway could generate. But the presumption would seem to be that the constricted airway would disappear when the "hard to breathe" condition disappears. Also, the inspirometer permits a quantification of the condition that would be hard to determine using a stethoscope.
I know three people other than myself who experience asthma symptoms when around cleaners, perfumes, and related petrochemicals. All of us can trace it to over-exposure to such chemicals. One worked in beauty salons for years, one worked in contruction and was heavily exposed to polyurethane finishes, one did a cleaning business.
We all have to go out of our way to use products that have no petrochemical based cleaners, perfumes, etc. Basically all perfumes (other than those made from plant based essential oils) are made from petroleum by-products; some from coal by-products.) It is common among asthma sufferers to react strongly to perfumes, but often natural fragrances do not bother them.
A lot of products claim "natural fragrance" but are mixed with the regular petroleum based ones too. One has to be careful.