Asthma is a chronic disease affecting some 235 million people around the world. Characterised by recurrent attacks of breathlessness and wheezing, the condition varies in severity from person to person, with the causes of the disease not completely understood.
However there are some known risk factors, and although there is no cure, asthma can be managed to improve sufferers’ quality of life.
On World Asthma Day (May 2), we round up some of the recent research which suggests how the condition can be managed and possibly even prevented.
Get some shut-eye
A large-scale Norwegian study which looked at the risk of asthma in 17,926 adult participants found that those with chronic insomnia had a higher risk of developing asthma.
The research found that those who reported difficulty falling asleep “often” or “almost every night” had a 65% and 108% increase in the risk of developing asthma in the next 11 years.
Those who woke up in the night and had trouble getting back to sleep “often” or “almost every night” had a 92% and 36% increased risk of developing the disease, while those who suffered from poor-quality sleep more than once a week had a 94% increased risk.
The team concluded that as a manageable condition, solving sleep problems could be one way to help prevent asthma.
A 2016 Swiss study found that breastfeeding babies in their first year of life could protect those with a genetic profile linked to asthma from symptoms such as asthma attacks or wheezing.
The team looked at 368 infants who had a genetic profile linked to asthma, with specific genetic variants on chromosome 17, called 17q21, putting the children at a greater risk of wheezing.
However the team found that during the period of breastfeeding, the children had a 27% decreased risk of developing respiratory symptoms, whereas the infants who were not breastfed showed an increased risk.
Try yoga to reduce symptoms
For those who already have asthma, yoga could be beneficial in easing the symptoms of the condition according to Canadian researchers.
The team looked at 15 clinical trials involving a total of 1,048 participants, majority of whom had been suffering from mild to moderate asthma for six months to 23 years.
All participants continued their regular treatments throughout the course of the studies, however the team found that those who also practiced yoga showed improvements in their quality of life and respiratory symptoms.
Get some sun
A 2016 study from the University of Kansas found that sufficient levels of vitamin D during the second trimester of pregnancy could help reduce a child’s risk of developing asthma.
The large-scale study found that mothers who lived in sunnier locations when in their second trimester of pregnancy, therefore with a higher level of exposure to sunlight and a higher level of vitamin D, had babies with a reduced risk of developing asthma.
A study from Tel Aviv University also found that asthmatics with a deficiency in Vitamin D were 25% more likely than other asthmatics to have had a recent asthma attack.
Get a pet
A large-scale 2015 study which looked at data on more than one million Swedish children found that those who grew up with dogs had a 15% lower risk of asthma.Following on from previous research which found that growing up on a farm decreases a child’s risk of asthma by half, known as the “farming effect,” the new study found that growing up with dogs could also be enough to make a difference.
According to a large-scale German study, even if not exposed to pets, babies who sleep on animal fur shortly after birth could also be protected against asthma.
The team looked at a German birth cohort of 2,441 healthy newborn babies, finding that those who slept on animal pelts during the first three months of life, exposing them to various microbes, had a 79% reduced risk of developing asthma by the age of six and a 41% reduced risk by age 10.