Asthma is one of the most common chronic medical conditions in children. There has been a sharp increase in the global prevalence, morbidity, mortality and economic burden associated with asthma over the past 40 years, particularly in children. Approximately 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma. (1). The worldwide increase in childhood asthma prevalence has raised concern for the considerable burden of this disease on society as well as individuals (2).
However, the study of asthma is analytically challenging, due to the complexity of the disease and its causes and/or triggers. Factors that have been associated with the development and exacebation of asthma and other atopic diseases include environmental factors, tobacco smoke, genetic predisposition, socioeconomic status, diet and living conditions. There is growing evidence, but an unclear relationship between asthma and urbanisation (3). Some experts are even suggesting that the global rise in asthma is indicative of an early climate change effect on health (4).
Air pollution a mixture of solid particles and gases in the air that if present in sufficient concentrations could cause harm to human health, is regarded as one of the potential environmental risk factors in the development of asthma. The association between air pollution and asthma symptoms is well established, but in recent years researchers have explored the relationship between asthma and particulate matter, ozone and nitroxides, albeit with conflicting results (5). Drug designers and pharmacologists are also interested in understanding asthma at the molecular and systems level with growing interest on specific protein expression.
In light of the growing global emphasis on management of the rising burden of non-communicable diseases, public health professionals in South Africa should:
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