Fri, Oct 27, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Parents urged to watch out for asthma symptoms

WINTER WARNING Almost half the infants sampled in a research project had intermittent asthmatic symptoms, while 30 percent were diagnosed with persistent asthma

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

As asthmatic symptoms worsen with the onset of winter, parents with infant children were yesterday urged to watch out for coughing and wheezing -- symptoms that can indicate the early development of asthma.

The warning came in a report released yesterday by Chang Gung Children's Hospital. The report was based on a sample of 184 infants who had received medical treatment at the hospital for allergies during outpatient visits.

The report showed that 49 percent had intermittent asthmatic symptoms, while 30 percent were diagnosed with persistent asthma. Huang Jing-long (黃璟隆), a doctor at the hospital, blames the dramatic increase in asthma cases on rapid urbanization and the use of mass immunization programs.

"Unlike the previous generation, kids now grow up in homes where all the doors and windows are closed," he said.

Huang also cited dust mites and cockroaches as two key allergens that can exacerbate a predilection for bronchial illnesses. He called on parents to keep infants at home as much as possible to avoid colds and flus that trigger attacks.

"Parents are to be pitied," Huang said. "They usually don't want to accept the fact that their child could be developing asthma. So they shun proven Western therapy and turn to expensive alternatives whose claims are untested."

According to Huang, goat's milk, soy formula and various traditional medicines are all touted as treatments for asthma.

"It's sad that although we have such good medicine we can use to treat asthma in Taiwan, people are still suffering unnecessarily because of mistaken beliefs," Huang said, adding that at 4.4 deaths per 100,000 per year, the death rate due to asthma in Taiwan is roughly double that of the US.

Huang said that there were still many myths about asthma that hinder proper treatment.

"In Chinese, asthma literally means `shortness of breath,' so people don't realize that persistent coughing alone can be a sign of asthma," Huang said.

"This is especially the case when traditional cold medicines are ineffective," he added

Huang said that the presence of eczema -- a skin disorder that is characterized by itching, scaling and thickening of the skin -- is another indicator of possible asthma.

"People are also terrified of steroids, even though they are very safe when use in inhalant form," Huang said.

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