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Asthmatic Bronchitis: Childhood Asthma

Lungs Function & Structure

Let us briefly understand the structure and the function of the lungs. The lungs are two cone-shaped vital organs on either side of the chest, as shown in the figure. Air, which we breathe through the nose, enters into the lungs through the air-tube (called Trachea) which bifurcates into two tubes, each going to the respective lungs. Each of the bronchus (plural bronchi) branches into multiple, numerous small tubes called bronchioles. The bronchioles lead to terminal sacs called alveoli. The air eventually passes through the bronchioles to the alveoli to exchange carbon dioxide (CO2) with Oxygen in return.
In the normal circumstances, there is a clear passage in the bronchi and the bronchioles facilitating effortless breathing process. In case of the asthmatic episode, due to certain factors, the bronchi and the bronchioles go into 'spasm' leading to obstructed air passage (as shown in figure II), not allowing the oxygen to go across. This is a typical phenomenon of the acute asthmatic episode. So, asthmatic bronchitis is nothing but a disorder of the respiratory system whereby the lung tubes meet with episodic or chronic episodes of spasms, where the precipitating cause might differ from patient to patient and the frequency of attacks, the duration of attack as well as the intensity of the attack could vary from child to child.So, asthmatic bronchitis is nothing but a disorder of the respiratory system whereby the lung tubes meet with episodic or chronic episodes of spasms, where the precipitating cause might differ from patient to patient and the frequency of attacks, the duration of attack as well as the intensity of the attack could vary from child to child.

Causes of Asthma in Children

Extrinsic (External) factors responsible for Childhood Asthma

They comprise of a wide range of allergies, which include allergens such as food allergens, pollutants (industrial pollution), chemicals (pest control), environmental factors (pollen, dust mites, cats, cockroaches, fungi, smoke, etc.), temperature intolerance (affected by the change in the atmospheric temperature). Physical exertion or exercise is known to induce an asthmatic episode. Certain infections such as viral, bacterial or fungal infections often lead to asthmatic breathing.

Intrinsic (Internal) factors causing Asthma in Children

The extrinsic factors alone cannot produce asthma, as not every one who is exposed to the pollen develops asthma. Again, not everyone who is allergic to pollen develops asthma! This means, the very individual susceptibility is probably the most important aspect when we try to understand the causative factors responsible for childhood asthma. In other words, asthma is not merely a disease of the lungs but of the immune system. The asthmatic episode is an outcome of the fundamental tendency or the susceptibility, which is genetically determined. (This is also true with a wide range of diseases.) Hereditary influences also decide the predisposition to asthma as children with a family history of asthma or allergy or eczema are more prone to asthma as compared to their counterpart who do not have such a family history.

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