When you are going to have a baby, you want to give her the best possible start in life. Nearly 9 million children in the United States have asthma, which is a chronic lung disease that makes breathing difficult. As of 2010, the best parents can do for their children are to manage symptoms to help prevent asthma attacks, but researchers are working on finding factors that can lead to preventing the disease.
One hypothesis on how asthma develops is that a deficiency of vitamin D in pregnant women can lead to a reduced-capacity immune system in the infant, which predisposes the baby to allergies and asthma, according to ClinicalTrials.gov. The theory is that if you take vitamin D while you are pregnant, you can help prevent asthma.
Another theory is that exposing children to germs helps boost their immune system and teaches the body not to overreact to harmless substances, which is what happens with allergies and asthma, according to MayoClinic. The theory stems from observing children who grow up around animals on farms; these children have asthma less often than other children do.
A study conducted by the Columbia Center for Children&rsquo;s Environmental Health researched the effects on prenatal and postnatal infants to air contaminants. The hope is to determine whether this type of exposure alters lung development, and if so, how.
What You Can Do
While the jury is still out on how to prevent asthma from ever developing, you can take measures that could help. Never smoke while pregnant. After your baby is born, don&rsquo;t smoke around the baby, including in the car. Exposure of children to tobacco smoke causes wheezing and respiratory infections, according to The University of Arizona.
Breastfeed your baby as long as possible. The University of Arizona reports that this gives your baby&rsquo;s immune system a better chance to develop properly.
When your child starts eating solid foods, introduce fish into her diet. Some evidence suggests that fish oil can prevent asthma due to the omega-3 fatty acids it contains, according to The University of Arizona. The Mediterranean diet, which includes fruit, vegetables, nuts and olive oil. may be more likely to stave off asthma. This type of diet seems to help with a runny or stuffy nose best, but it might protect against asthma symptoms.
If you child has allergies, take her to an allergist and discuss getting her allergy shots. Allergy treatment can prevent your child from developing more allergies, which can lead to allergic asthma.
The germ theory of exposing your child to germs in the hopes of boosting the immune system is dangerous because exposing your child to germs could do more harm than good. Preventing asthma is more complex than growing up on a farm, says Dr. James T. Li on MayoClinic.