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Ayurveda for Recurrent Respiratory Infections of Children

Pediatric respiratory tract infections are one of the most common reasons for physician visits and hospitalization, and are associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Respiratory infections are common and frequent diseases and present one of the major complaints in children and adolescents. The role of physicians and other healthcare providers has expanded from merely treating disease to implementing measures aimed at health maintenance and disease prevention. Respiratory infections (RI), mainly involving the upper airways, are common in children and their recurrence constitutes a demanding challenge for the pediatricians. There are many children suffering from so-called recurrent respiratory infections (RRI). The child with recurrent respiratory infections presents a difficult diagnostic challenge. It is necessary to discriminate between those with simply-managed cause for their symptoms such as recurrent viral infections or asthma, from the children with more serious underlying pathology such as bronchiectasis or immune dysfunction. Many different disorders present this way, including cystic fibrosis, various immunodeficiency syndromes, congenital anomalies of respiratory tract, but in some children lung damage could follow a single severe pneumonia or can be the consequence of the inhalation of food or foreign body. According to the epidemiological studies it was estimated that around 6% of the children younger than 6 years of age present RRI. In developed countries, up to 25% of children aged < 1 year and 18% of children aged 1-4 years experience RRI. Moreover, ENT infections represent the most frequent pathologies in children aged from 6 months to 6 years. Although the etiologic agents responsible for RRI are not always readily identifiable, viral agents are typically the main cause. The real task for the pediatricians is to discriminate the normal children with high respiratory infections frequency related to an augmented exposure to environmental risk factors from the children affected by other underlying pathological conditions (immunological or not), predisposing to infectious respiratory diseases. Usually, the children with RRI are not affected by severe alterations and RRI represent essentially the consequence of an increased exposure to infectious agents due to environmental factors during the first years of life.

In the clinical practice, most of the children suffer from the recurrent infections of the upper airways, but in approximately 10-30%, the lower tract is also affected. RRI are a common problem mainly in preschool age, usually due to the presence of unfavorable environmental conditions, including early socialization, as well as the immaturity and inexperience of the immune system. In infancy and early childhood the immune system encounters antigens for the first time, mounting immune responses and acquiring memory. Young children mix with other children in families or nursery and are exposed to many pathogens and therefore there are more vulnerable to infection and recurrent infections are common. Many of the children are simply having the repeated viral upper respiratory tract infections that are a normal part of growing up. In others, the symptoms are the first manifestations of asthma. If there is a history of persistent or recurrent pneumonia with or without chronic sputum production, it is indicating more severe pathology. RRI initially occur as a viral respiratory tract infection, but bacterial growth is demonstrated in 60% of patients with symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection of at least 10 days duration. The children with prolonged or recurrent respiratory illnesses most often have a series of infections rather than persistent infection with one virus strain. Some children experience considerable morbidity as a result of RRI and receive repeated courses of antibacterials that are not effective against viral infectious agents and can increase bacterial resistance.

In these situations, Ayurveda is an alternative to prevent respiratory ailments either due to infections or allergy. A careful management of the acute exacerbations of respiratory problems with minimum antibiotics followed by Ayurvedic treatment in between attacks provides much control of the situation. Once there is reduction in the number of episodes in a particular period of time, the general immunity of the child can be modified by administering suitable rejuvenation. In allergic conditions of the upper and lower respiratory tract modified procedure therapies are used to eliminate the mucus and metabolic wastes accumulated in the respiratory sinuses and airways.