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Respiratory Diseases in Children

2. Which factors cause respiratory diseases in children?

  • 2.1 What are the multiple causes of disease?
  • 2.2 What is the difference between causes and triggers of diseases?

2.1 What are the multiple causes of disease?

There are three main groups of factors which are involved in the development of diseases in general, and also for respiratory diseases in children:

  • the genetic background of a person (host genetics),
  • the living conditions or lifestyle of a person (host conditions), which includes nutrition, income and housing, but also depends on age. It can influence the person’s likelihood to respond to environmental factors,
  • exposure to environmental factors including all kinds of substances present in air, water, food, soil, and consumer products, as well as other circumstances, such as weather conditions or damp housing.
See also GreenFacts' Digest on Air Pollution
Figure 5
: Multi-causality Framework for Environment and Health .

Asthma, for instance, is a result of different combinations and interactions of factors from these three groups. Those people who are susceptible due to their genetic background and who are exposed to adverse environmental factors have the highest risk of developing a disease such as asthma.

The fact that there are multiple causes creates many obstacles to understanding the mechanisms and factors that lead to disease development, but it also provides opportunities for preventing harm when certain critical factors can be identified and removed. More...

2.2 What is the difference between causes and triggers of diseases?

While some respiratory diseases have clearly identifiable causes, others including asthma and bronchitis have a variety of potential causes and triggers.

Whereas underlying causes are responsible for a disease, triggers are factors that bring on or worsen symptoms. For instance, although the role of air pollution in the onset of asthma is unclear, it has a clear role in precipitating asthma attacks in children who already have the disease.

Even if reducing a trigger does not remove the underlying causes of a disease and the number of people affected, it may lead to substantial health gains because it reduces the symptoms. More...

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