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You are here : 3-RX.com > Home > Children's Health - Asthma -

Family, neighborhood can affect children’s asthma

Children's Health • • AsthmaOct 09, 07

For children with asthma, problems in the family or in the neighborhood may make their condition worse, a new study suggests.

Canadian researchers found that asthma symptoms tended to be more severe among children and teens from dysfunctional families or from neighborhoods with crime problems. They say the findings suggest that improving children’s home life may also help control their asthma.

The study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, included 78 asthmatic 9- to 18-year-olds from Vancouver, Canada.

The subjects were recruited from clinics, postings in schools and newspaper advertisements. All of the children had a diagnosis of asthma from their physician and most has allergic asthma.

All completed questionnaires on their family, neighborhood and relationships with friends. They also had their asthma symptoms and lung function assessed over two weeks.

Overall, the researchers found, children and teens who reported relatively little family support, defined as the extent to which they felt their parents valued and cared for them, tended to have more severe asthma symptoms and poorer lung function.

Similarly, children who said their neighborhoods were plagued by problems like crime, gangs and drugs tended to have more asthma symptoms.

The reasons for the two associations appeared to be different, however, according to the researchers, led by Dr. Edith Chen of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

While neighborhood surroundings seemed to affect children’s behavior, family life seemed to affect their asthma in a biological manner. Chen’s team found that children with poor family support had higher blood levels of allergy-related antibodies and other immune system substances involved in allergic reactions.

There is growing evidence that psychological and social factors, like chronic stress, can alter immune system function, Chen told Reuters Health.

“In children with asthma,” she explained, “a similar process may be operating, whereby social factors, such as difficulties in family relationships, may directly affect immune processes that are relevant to asthma.”

Living in a bad neighborhood, on the other hand, did not seem to influence biological markers of asthma severity. But these children were more likely to smoke or be exposed to second-hand smoke, and were less likely to stick with their medication regimen.

According to Chen, the findings imply that stronger family relationships and better neighborhoods might lessen the severity of children’s asthma. However, she added, studies are needed to prove this.

SOURCE: American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, October 2007.

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