Allergies and Asthma in Children

Excerpt from Child Health Guide: Holistic Pediatrics for
Parents, North Atlantic Books, 2005

Allergic conditions can begin at any age. Infants can
develop eczema soon after birth. Babies can also suffer from
asthmatic reactions to viruses, with chronic coughs and/or
wheezing following colds. Preschoolers may develop
sensitivity to milk and chronic sinus congestion or ear
problems. It is during the ages 5 through 10, however, that
allergies and asthma become especially prevalent. Children
at this age develop seasonal hay fever attacks and asthmatic
reactions to animals, dust mites, and plants. Asthma may
also manifest as exercise-induced wheezing when children
begin playing sports (soccer, basketball, swimming) that
challenge their endurance.

Allergies affect about 38
percent of all Americans, and about 5 percent of the U.S.
population has asthma. The highest proportion of asthma is
among children age 5 to 14, a total of 5 million children.
Childhood asthma has increased by more than 40 percent since
1980. In other parts of the world, the numbers are even
higher. In Western Europe as a whole, asthma cases have
doubled in the last ten years, according to the UCB
Institute of Allergy in Belgium. “The prevalence of asthma
in children can be as high as 30 percent in certain
populations,” explained Professor Romain Pauwels, Chairman
of the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA). “In Australia,
for example, one child in six under the age of 16 is
affected today. Experts are struggling to understand why
rates worldwide are, on average, rising by 50 percent every
decade.”

Many researchers have looked at the growing number of
childhood vaccines as a likely cause of the rise in
childhood asthma. Several clinical studies have confirmed an
association between vaccination and asthma. A team of New
Zealand researchers followed 1,265 children born in 1977. Of
the children who were vaccinated, 23 percent had asthma
episodes. A total of 23 children did not receive the DTP
vaccines, and none of them developed asthma (Kemp et al.,
1997). A study in Great Britain produced similar findings
that associated asthma with the pertussis vaccine. In that
study, 243 children received the vaccine and 26 of them
later developed asthma (10.7 percent), compared to only 4 of
the 203 children who had never received the pertussis
vaccine (2 percent). Additionally, of the 91 children who
received no vaccines at all, only one had asthma. Therefore,
the risk of developing asthma was about 1 percent in
children receiving no vaccines and 11 percent for those
children who received vaccines, including pertussis (Odent
et al., 1994). A third study was conducted in the U.S. from
data in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey
of infants through adolescents aged 16. Data showed that
children vaccinated with DTP or tetanus were twice as likely
to develop asthma, compared to unvaccinated children
(Hurwitz and Morgenstern, 2000). Medications given to
children early in life also have a significant effect on the
incidence of asthma. Children given antibiotics or
acetaminophen (Tylenol) at some time prior to age 4 were
nearly twice as likely to develop asthma, compared to a
control group (Cohet et al., 2004). One group of researchers
discovered a possible cause for the development of asthma as
a consequence of antibiotic use. Mice given antibiotics
developed an alteration of intestinal bacteria and an
increase in the growth of intestinal yeast. These mice
developed typical allergic responses in the lungs when they
were exposed to mold spores. Mice that did not receive
antibiotics did not experience the allergic reactions
(Noverr et al., 2004).

Low income level has also proven to be associated with
childhood asthma. In a study undertaken by the Harlem
Children’s Zone, more than 2,000 children were tested for
asthma. All children under 13 who lived within a
twenty-four-square block area of Central Harlem were tested,
and 26 percent had evidence of asthma, five times the
national average. Clearly, healthful nutrition is an
important deterrent to the development of asthma in
children.

The dramatic increase in childhood allergies and asthma has
resulted in an equally alarming number of drug-dependent
children. Parents have become dismayed at the inadequacies
and dangers of conventional drug treatment for asthma. Most
children with asthma are prescribed steroid inhalers with
their attendant dangers of growth suppression and immune
system depletion. Allergy drug recalls, deaths associated
with asthma drugs, and the dire consequences of children on
steroids have stimulated millions of parents to find
alternatives. All of these drugs merely relieve symptoms for
a few hours with no expectation of overall improvement.
Effective conventional treatment for young children with
allergies is virtually nonexistent.

The solution to allergic and asthmatic conditions lies in
the realm of holistic medical care. Allergies can be
significantly improved, and even cured, with holistic
treatment. Homeopathic constitutional medicine is the most
profound and direct way to stimulate a healing reaction and
overcome immune system susceptibilities. Children’s immune
mechanisms can also be strengthened using a combination of
nutritional supplements and Chinese herbal treatment.
Treating asthma with holistic approaches can be complex and
needs to be carefully managed—children cannot stop their
medications suddenly. A number of safe and effective herbal
formulas exist that can control asthma in children and
simultaneously strengthen the immune system to prevent
further attacks. The Chinese Modular Solutions formulas Open
Air, Deep Breath, and Chest Relief, all developed for
pediatric use, are especially effective in managing asthma
without drugs.

Nutritional support for asthma is especially important,
including adequate supplies of vitamins A, C, D, and E,
colostrum, magnesium, and an omega-3 supplement. Several
important herbal formulations can also help bolster immunity
in older children, especially those combinations that
include the immune stimulating mushrooms (maitake, reishi,
grifola, polyporus, tremella).

Other treatment methods that can improve lung function and
create a healthy balance in the body for energy to flow
properly include acupuncture, and chiropractic and
osteopathic manipulation.

Finally, the emotional and energetic component of asthma
treatment should not be neglected. The field of
psycho-neuro-immunology has revealed the important
connection between emotions and the immune system.
Self-regulation techniques that develop a relaxation state
include guided imagery, biofeedback, and simple deep
abdominal breathing. These methods can help prevent asthma
reactions. Children proficient in these skills can also
relieve asthmatic symptoms when they occur. One of the
primary mechanisms of asthma is the constriction of smooth
muscle fibers that encircle the airway tubes. When the mind
is calm, when skeletal muscles are relaxed, and when
breathing is deep and regular, these muscles that constrict
air flow will also relax and allow children to breathe more
freely. Regular exercise, swimming, and dance training have
also been shown to increase lung capacity and reduce asthma
episodes.

This holistic approach to asthma will strengthen the immune
system and lung function, prevent the airway inflammation
characteristic of asthma, relieve the muscle constriction
that impairs breathing, decrease mucus production in
airways, and create a balanced energy flow that allows the
lungs to do their job without impairment.

Breathing Again: A Case History
Kayley is a
fun-loving, friendly, and talkative first-grader. She likes
Barbies and art projects and playing with her dog.
Unfortunately, Kayley has some health problems that
interfere with her life and play. She gets out of breath and
coughs when she plays soccer. If she catches a cold it will
quickly settle into nightly coughing spells that often
worsen and turn into wheezing episodes. Twice, they have
gotten so bad that she landed in the emergency room where
the doctors used inhaled drugs to restore her breathing and
then sent her home with a prescription for oral, systemic
steroids.

The allergist prescribed an inhaled steroid for Kayley to
use every day and a second bronchodilator drug for Kayley to
take before exercise and whenever she developed cough or
wheezing. Kayley’s mother was not especially happy with the
doctor’s pronouncement that Kayley required continuous drug
treatment, nor did she appreciate the side effects. The
drugs made Kayley hyper. So began the search for
alternatives to the standard drug approach for Kayley’s
asthma.

When I first saw Kayley, she still had a chronic dry, tight
cough despite the drug treatment. Since Kayley was in no
acute distress and the drugs were not preventing or curing
her symptoms anyway, we decided to replace the daily drug
regimen with Chinese herbs and put Kayley on a program of
immune enhancing supplements. I prescribed a liquid extract
of herbs formulated for children (Deep Breath by Chinese
Modular Solutions) and a similar formula for acute episodes
of cough or wheezing (Open Air). She received one dose of a
constitutional homeopathic medicine, Natrum-sulphuricum (1M
strength).

Kayley needed help getting through her wintertime colds.
Echinacea, vitamin C, herbs, and homeopathic treatment
prevented the downward spiral that used to occur with her
acute illnesses. Mild allergic rashes improved with
supportive treatment. She never took steroids again, and she
continued to excel at soccer and gymnastics. Her mother was
frankly amazed at the new level of Kayley’s resilience when
she caught a cold. Chronic coughing was no longer a problem,
and Kayley stopped identifying herself as an asthmatic.

Cohet, C, et al. Infections, medication use, and the
prevalence of symptoms of asthma, rhinitis, and eczema in
childhood. J Epidemiology Community Health 2004 Oct;
58(10):852–857.

Hurwitz, E L, and Morgenstern, H. Effects of
diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis or tetanus vaccination on
allergies and allergy-related respiratory symptoms among
children and adolescents in the US. Journal Manipulative and
Physiological Therapeutics
2000; 318(7192):1173–1176.

Kemp, T, Pearce, N, Fitzharris, P, et al. Is infant
immunization a risk factor for childhood asthma or allergy?
Epidemiology 1997; 8:678.

Noverr, M C, et al. Role of antibiotics and fungal
microbiota in driving pulmonary allergic responses.
Infectious Immunology 2004 Sep; 72(9):4996–5003.

Odent, M R, Culpin, E E, and Kimmel, T. Letter to the
editor. Pertussis vaccination and asthma: is there a link?
Journal American Medical Association 1994; 272:592–593. 2004
Oct; 58(10):852–857.

Hurwitz, E L, and Morgenstern, H. Effects of
diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis or tetanus vaccination on
allergies and allergy-related respiratory symptoms among
children and adolescents in the US. Journal Manipulative and
Physiological Therapeutics
2000; 318(7192):1173–1176.

Kemp, T, Pearce, N, Fitzharris, P, et al. Is infant
immunization a risk factor for childhood asthma or allergy?
Epidemiology 1997; 8:678.

Noverr, M C, et al. Role of antibiotics and fungal
microbiota in driving pulmonary allergic responses.
Infectious Immunology 2004 Sep; 72(9):4996–5003.

Odent, M R, Culpin, E E, and Kimmel, T. Letter to the
editor. Pertussis vaccination and asthma: is there a link?
Journal American Medical Association 1994; 272:592–593.

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Avatar Written by Randall Neustaedter OMD

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