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Increasing Rates of Asthma in Children of Ontario

Zahra Abdi
There’s a few things we have and take for granted, like easy simple breathing; something you do without needing to be consciously aware. However when you have asthma, it becomes something difficult.

Asthma is an allergic reaction; that is inflammation caused due to immune hypersensitivity. Currently it is the most common chronic disease reported in children from developed countries. The Global Asthma Report in 2014 visually shows the sudden bump up in Asthma cases as the years go by.

Similarly statistics Canada documents the trend increase from the 1970s to 1990s from a 2.5% reported Childhood asthma in 1978to 11.2% in 1994. With this sudden peaking, the Ontario ministry of health had to step in, to push for the implementation of the Canadian Asthma guidelines in 2002. For 3 years these educational workshops went on to improve Asthma care.

asthma girl In order to better understand asthma within Ontario, the Ontario Asthma Surveillance Information System (OASIS) was started in 2003. This enabled us to better understand the rates in asthma related health services, mortality and such. These too help in promoting asthma related health care.

With all this sort-of recent initiatives, it does give off the feeling that asthma is relatively new, however it’s not. Asthma, and its history can be dated back all the way to good old Hippocrates. It so happens to be a more prevalent issue in today’s society than ever before, with 334 million people suffering from it, worldwide. You can be diagnosed with asthma at any age, but it tends to first start at during childhood. Children in particular have higher chance of being diagnosed with asthma within their first few years of life.

A good portion of the OHIP expenditure is for asthma [1]. If in 1990 somewhere around $504 and $648 million, was spent on Asthma in Canada, what monstrosity of a number could it be today?

So before we go on, consider these two situations: The first is a child growing up in a developing country, somewhere in the countryside, and perhaps they’re exposed to farm animals. Do you have that in mind? Alright, now contrast that to a child growing up in a developed country, in a more crowded urban setting like Toronto. You can practically hear the sirens blaring away.

child asthma So my question to you is, which child do you think is more likely to develop asthma?

This is a bit of an unfair question because there’s more factors to consider than just geographical location. For instance things like your income, and your family contribute to factors that can affect development of asthma in children. There’s a relationship between low income families and asthma, due to poorer living conditions: Children are exposed to more allergens such as mold, dust and pests.

Also, if it runs in the family, then you may also be more susceptible to asthma. Another way family factors into the grand scheme of all things asthma is that there seems to be a correlation between the number of siblings and asthma: The more siblings a child has the less likely they are to have asthma. Income and family are but two examples.

Coming back to the two cases presented before, the child growing up in the urban setting may have higher chance of developing asthma. Why is that so? And why are these children more susceptible to diagnosing for asthma in their early years? Well as stated before there are a number of factors that lead to asthma, such as pollution, but one interesting thing I’d like to look at is the hygiene hypothesis. This basically states that the lack of early exposure to pathogens in one’s life makes their immune system more hypersensitive, as in more likely to result in an allergic reaction. Early exposure allows for one’s immune system to ‘grow stronger’, so that your immune system won’t fire away when a harmless thing makes it into the lungs.

inhaler Growing up in a developed country means that children immersed in cleaner environments so having less microbial contact, so they can end up having asthma. Children who grew up on farms, have lower chances of having asthma.

Growing up in Ontario, also entails better health care to handle that asthma. Both The UHN and Sick Kids have asthma clinics. There are many other clinics specific to paediatric care, such as the St. Joseph Health Centre, Humber River Hospital and more. Centers like these offer diagnostic tests and education on asthma and its management. First step in controlling it, is understanding it. It may be difficult to breath, but with more support all around in Toronto, you can at least take a breath of relief.
Zahra Abdi April 21, 2016

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