Alternative Approaches to Asthma

by Patricia Lemer, MEd, NCC (DDR Executive Director)

An asthma epidemic? Since 1994, the prevalence of asthma in America has increased 61 % overall - 72% in children. Approximately five million children have asthma, which is the number one reason for school absenteeism.

Who gets asthma? Few babies are born with asthma. It is seldom serious in infants but tends to become more severe through childhood, generally worsening around 8-14 years. Asthmatic children often have parents with asthma, a history of food and other allergies, eczema, and immune deficiencies. More males develop asthma than females.

Preventing an attack is far easier than treating an acute one, which requires immediate medical care. Prevention isn‘t merely assuring that children take medication, which can often have serious side effects. It also involves monitoring the environment, introducing techniques and exercises to improve and prevent the condition, and trying some alternative therapies.

Asthma Triggers: Allergens at home and school often trigger an attack. A combination of factors eventually causes an attack, because asthma, like other health problems, does not have a single cause. Each trigger puts an additional load on the immune system. Some triggers are allergic irritants, like dust mites, molds, pollen, animal dander, chemicals and certain foods. Others are non-specific, such as exercise, emotions, tobacco smoke and infections. All can be controlled with effort.

In addition to obvious allergens like peanuts, milk and shellfish, asthmatics must watch for additives, preservatives and yeast products.

The Feingold Association is the best source for acceptable and problematic products by brand (1-800-321FAUS). Watch for tartrazine (it colors foods and medicines yellow, green and orange), sodium metabisulfite (a preservative in canned foods), MSG, BHA and BHT. Use natural cleaners. Wash clothes in unscented, detergent-free, biodegradable soap. Use herbs for pest management in the garden.

Natural treatments:

Air purifiers and ionizers" Using air treatment devices at home and school can improve the quality of indoor air for asthmatics by reducing triggers and increasing the number of negative ions. A negative-ion rich environment can help headaches, depression, skin problems and wounds, as well as improve breathing.

[Initially published in New Developments: Volume 4, Number 3 - Summer, 1998-1999]

All material in this web site is given for information purposes only and is not to be substituted for advice from your health care provider.


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