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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 July 2018

Changes to diet and cleaner homes can help prevent asthma attacks

Reduced consumption of red meat and dairy products and keeping a cleaner home could provide much-needed relief to asthma sufferers, health experts have said.
Mikhail and Alisher attend hygiene lessons at Blossom Burj Nursery in Dubai. Pre-school children and their parents at centres run by Blossoms Nurseries are given lessons on reducing the risk of allergic reactions, particularly from dust mites. Alex Atack for The National
Mikhail and Alisher attend hygiene lessons at Blossom Burj Nursery in Dubai. Pre-school children and their parents at centres run by Blossoms Nurseries are given lessons on reducing the risk of allergic reactions, particularly from dust mites. Alex Atack for The National

DUBAI // Reduced consumption of red meat and dairy products and keeping a cleaner home could provide much-needed relief to asthma sufferers, health experts have said.

Sandstorms and dust are regular triggers for the chronic respiratory condition, especially in the cooler months, but instead of resorting to medication residents are advised to seek a simpler, more natural remedy.

“In the UAE we are seeing increasing rates of asthma and allergies,” said Dr David Cremonesini, a consultant paediatrician working in Dubai specialising in allergy and paediatrics at the American Hospital.

“The local climate, especially the humidity, can trigger asthma when outside but it also creates the perfect environment indoors. When we think of hay fever we assume this is due to pollens or pet hair, but in fact the most common cause is house dust mites.”

House dust mites are about a quarter of a millimetre long and live off human skin scales. They are found in bedding, carpets, soft furnishings and clothes.

Allergic symptoms are caused by mite droppings, which contain Guanine, a contributor to most allergies and asthmas. A child’s risk of becoming allergic to mites increases if he or she has eczema.

“Many children have these problems, especially in winter, and perhaps the biggest cause is viral infections,” Dr Cremonesini said. “Viral infections are more likely if the child has a fever at the start of symptoms and the problems come and go, but it can be hard to rule out allergy on your own. If you suspect allergy it’s worth seeing a doctor.”

A study by Asthma Insights and Reality for the Gulf and Near East showed 40 per cent of UAE asthmatics visited hospital ERs last year, with 64 per cent suffering sudden and severe attacks.

Staff at four Blossoms Nurseries are teaching more than 900 children and their parents how to reduce the risk of allergic reactions, specially from dust mites.

“It is a dusty environment here in Dubai and as I am an asthmatic I know how important hygiene is,” said Chantal Ariens, director of growth at the nursery.

Each nursery teaches between 120 and 240 children, and has its own cleaning co-ordinator, with daily spot checks to ensure standards are met. Regular coffee mornings are also held to educate parents on the importance of a clean home.

“Children do get sick, so whatever we can do to make the environment as clean as possible is very important,” Ms Ariens said. “In my experience, parents are willing to try alternative methods, but it is up to parents to educate themselves.”

Magalie Paillard, a nutritional therapist, chef and nutrition consultant in Dubai, said the proper diet could also help to reduce the risk of an asthmatic attack. “Asthmatics need to be very careful about the type of fats they’re consuming. Anything that is processed, like cookies, biscuits and crisps fried in sunflower oil are a problem.

“These foods can produce inflammatory hormones in the body and can bring on an attack or make eczema worse.”

A diet rich in oily fish, nuts, fruit and vegetable can help guard against inflammatory agents in the body that can trigger an allergic reaction. Eggs, seeds and any food rich in vitamin C are also advised as natural antihistamines.

“Anyone with severe asthma should cut their consumption of red meats, dairy products and any foods that contain sulphites,” Ms Paillard said.

nwebster@thenational.ae