New Delhi: COPD or Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease makes it difficult to breathe due to long-term damage that weakens or collapses the air sacs between the lungs. It is most common among adults who are current or former cigarette smokers.
"Usually, when a child has difficulty breathing, a chronic cough or wheezing, it is due to Asthma, a chronic lung infection or a congenital hereditary disease affecting lungs by the production of thick mucus which blocks the airways. This also exposes the lungs to chronic infection and further lung damage. Such symptoms may also be due to exposure to cigarette smoke (secondary smoke), air pollution or other irritants. Research has proven that children with asthma or other lung problems have a greater chance of developing COPD in adult life," says Dr Praveen Khilnani, Clinical Director and Senior Consultant, Paediatrics, Paediatric Pulmonology and Critical Care, Madhukar Rainbow Children's Hospital.
COPD can be categorised in the following stages - Early, Moderate, Severe and Very Severe.
Some indicative signs of the disease are:
» Short breath while doing physical activities
» Chest tightness
» Chronic cough which can be clear, white, yellow or greenish
» Frequent respiratory infections
» Lack of energy
» Sudden weight loss (in later stages)
Prevalence of co-occurrence of COPD diagnosis in parents and offspring with Intergenerational associations in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have been well recognized. This may result from genetic, gene-environment or exposure to lifestyle factors. Studies have shown that parents who have a preterm birth, children with low birth weight, parents exposed to tobacco exposure in uterine, children with respiratory diseases, primarily asthma and pneumonia, in children can give way to lung problems in later childhood. Children exposed to smoke around them also have a negative impact on the lungs, which can develop as COPD in adulthood. Most children develop asthma symptoms before 5 years. Asthma can be difficult to diagnose in toddlers. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between asthma or another childhood condition as the symptoms in both cases are very similar.
A child who has frequent bouts of cold wheezes respiratory infections can have asthma if the parent is asthmatic. Signs of allergies are spotted in the child has signs of allergies which can be eczema the child wheezes almost all the time.
"Children with asthma should carry inhalers with them. Parents and schools should ensure clean air for children. Schools and homes should have clean and healthy air. Parents should also be cautious of not smoking during pregnancy", suggests Dr Khilnani.
COPD can be diagnosed with Lung function tests and CT scans. COPD incidence is found to be the highest among children with both asthma and pneumonia in childhood. Care should be taken to treat these diseases in children. In most cases, asthma in children is cured in adulthood. However, children who have weak lungs develop COPD in later adult lives. Study shows that 11 per cent of children with severe asthma had COPD as young adults, and three out of four children with persistent asthma have low lung function by their early 20s. Usually, boys with asthma have a higher incidence of low lung function capability than girls.
"If a child has severe asthma, doctors recommend a spirometry test to be taken annually. It checks how much air you can breathe in and out, and how fast you can exhale air from your lungs. COPD can't be cured, but timely care can help keep your lungs working well for as long as possible. Smoking plays a very active role in developing COPD, so active smoking as well as passive smoking should be avoided for such patients. Being alert about the symptoms of COPD also helps a lot to treat this at an early stage", says Dr Khilnani.