Symptoms, which include wheezing, coughing, and breathlessness, usually start to occur after the first year, though from six months babies can develop a persistent nighttime cough. Asthma may be caused by an allergic reaction to substances such as house dust mites, pollen, animal dander, or food. Asthma occurs when the sensitive linings of the airways in the lungs (bronchial tubes) are irritated, swell, and go into spasm, restricting air flow. The linings may then leak mucus, which clogs the air passages even more, making coughing and wheezing worse. Babies under a year may get bronchiolitis, which has symptoms similar to those of asthma but is caused by a viral infection. Any baby with a recurrent or chronic cough should be monitored for asthma.
If you suspect that your baby may have asthma or something similar, it is essential to take him to his doctor for a correct diagnosis. In young children a diagnosis of asthma may require several episodes of wheezing. Your baby may grow out of his symptoms, or they may be due to some other illness.
mites once a week by putting the toy in a plastic bag, leaving it in the freezer overnight, then defrosting it and washing it in a medium-hot wash.
What you can do
If you feel your baby may be at risk of asthma, follow these guidelines to reduce his susceptibility:
• Breast-feed your baby for as long as possible. Bottle-fed babies are known to be more vulnerable to asthma.
• Don’t allow anyone to smoke in your home.
• Try to reduce contact with common allergens such as house dust mites, feathers, molds, pollen, and pet fur, which can irritate the linings of the respiratory passages and trigger an attack.
• Try not to buy stuffed toys, since they harbor dust mites. If your baby must have a teddy bear or soft toy, kill the
• Diet can sometimes be a factor. Food additives, especially yellow dyes, sodium benzoate, and sulfates are a trigger.
Ask your baby’s doctor if you should try cutting out mucus-producing foods, especially dairy products such as cow’s milk and cheese. Give foods that are easy to digest. Some babies are affected by refined sugar, while others react to food additives.
• If your child does develop asthma, he will usually need drugs to control the attacks. However, there are various natural therapies (such as aromatherapy, homeopathy, herbalism, or naturopathy) you can use at the same time to help prevent attacks from occurring. Take your child to an experienced practitioner of complementary medicine for advice after beginning conventional medical treatment.
A natural remedy
A thyme bath can benefit a wheezy baby. Make an infusion of 2—3 teaspoons of thyme in 1 pint (480ml) of boiling water. Let it stand for five minutes, then pour into the bathwater. Check the temperature of the water before putting the baby in the tub.