“We at Franciscus Gasthuis & Vlietland in Rotterdam are currently busier than usual with children with respiratory problems,” says pediatric pulmonologist Esme de Kler. “Today there are three children in the intensive care unit at Sofia Children’s Hospital with a very serious, life-threatening asthma attack. This is very exceptional.”
De Clare is quick to add that there is often an increase in lung complaints in September. “Sometimes I call September back-to-school asthma month. More factors are coming together. Children are going back to school and infecting each other with all kinds of viruses. We are once again facing traffic jams en masse, which increases air pollution. And this week there is also smog in the Netherlands, “This causes children to develop lung complaints more quickly.”
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Because of this smog, the National Institute of Public Health and Environment issued a warning. Meteorologist Marjon De Honde says air quality in the Netherlands will likely remain very poor until Sunday.
Joel Israels, a pediatrician at Willem-Alexander Children’s Hospital in Leiden, says his profession has become busier with lung patients. “We’ve had more babies in the ICU in recent weeks, whereas in the summer that number was much lower. I wouldn’t immediately describe the increase as alarming or eye-catching, but it’s actually becoming busier.”
There are two moments each year when complaints increase, Israel says. A shorter period in the spring when pollen is released. And when the Ra comes in the month. “So it starts now.”
Israel says the peak of complaints often occurs between September and December. And in urban areas, where air pollution is often worse, patients with serious complaints are more numerous, pulmonologists say.
Human behavior can also contribute. Ismé de Kleer: “Asthma can be triggered by all kinds of things. By exhaust fumes and smog, but also by a virus. And barbecuing in the neighborhood is not good, just like smoking.”
Send the class home
According to De Clare, about 6,000 children are diagnosed with asthma for the first time each year. “Since the 1970s and 1980s, this has increased dramatically every year, because the air quality was much worse than it is now. At that time, entire school classes in the Rotterdam area were sometimes sent home if the air became too polluted.” In recent years The increase has remained stable at approximately 6,000 new patients per year. This is partly due to conscious behavior around smoking and cleaner combustion engines, which have improved air quality. Although it is still far from being good enough.”
De Clare says the issue of increasing complaints was discussed last week during a lecture she gave to other pediatricians. “It was categorically agreed that it was starting to get busier.”
“Like every year,” she says, she is passionate about her patients. “Especially with the smog now. It can lead to significant shortness of breath, and sometimes lack of oxygen, and that’s very scary for patients. In Rotterdam, about 1 in 7 children has asthma, so it’s really worrying for thousands of children who are “People with asthma these days may have additional complaints, or have limited physical activity on a regular basis.”
Viruses cannot be prevented
Children with asthma are advised not to exert much physical effort during these days when there is a lot of smog. “It’s usually good for kids with asthma to exercise a lot, but with smog, it’s better to stay inside and take things seriously.”
Colleague Israel’s advice: “Vulnerable children should use their medications carefully, especially in periods when they are most vulnerable. If you notice that your condition is getting worse, sound the alarm. Because unfortunately you cannot prevent infection with viruses.”
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