Touching Lives - March 2012
Hope on the horizon for wheezy children
If your child wheezes, you’re not alone – wheezing is so common it affects a quarter of young children. While some grow out of it, for others it worsens and they develop asthma. Researchers from London funded by Action Medical Research are investigating why.
Over one million children in the UK have asthma – that’s one in every 11. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, breathlessness and chest tightness. This debilitating combination can force children to miss a lot of school, sports and social activities with their friends. Unfortunately, it’s not usually possible to diagnose asthma until a child reaches school age and few treatments exist for preschool children with severe wheezing. Those that are available are often ineffective. Furthermore, the biggest problem is that there aren’t any treatments that will actually prevent wheezing from developing into asthma.
Thanks to your support research teams at Imperial College London and the Royal Brompton Hospital are looking at the links between early infections, allergy, wheezing and asthma. The teams suspect that wheezy children who go on to develop asthma respond abnormally to infections and allergens. Cells lining the surface of their lungs produce excessive amounts of certain immune molecules, resulting in permanent lung damage.
An improved understanding of asthma could help the researchers find a way to diagnose the disease earlier, before a child’s lungs have been damaged. This could also guide the development of better treatments.