Asthma is a chronic lung disease that causes airway inflammation, coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. Untreated asthma attacks can be fatal. Asthma can affect a child’s performance in school, activity level, and general quality of life.
Medical asthma remedies use long-term medication to control asthma and quick-acting rescue medication for asthma attacks. Both medications are usually delivered by inhalers.
While generally considered safe for long-term use, asthma medication can cause side effects and can be difficult to administer to children. In response to these concerns, parents sometimes seek alternative asthma remedies. Other parents want to give their child every possible tool to control their asthma.
With the exception of some herbal asthma remedies, most alternative asthma remedies are safe to try in combination with medical asthma treatments. If you do choose to try one of the following alternative asthma remedies, consult with your child’s doctor. If the child takes asthma medication, do not discontinue it in favor of the alternative therapy. Whatever the shortcomings of asthma medications, there’s no denying the medication controls symptoms and saves lives.
Yoga and Breathing Exercises
Yoga’s series of stretching exercises has been credited with numerous health benefits, and practicing the ancient art certainly wouldn’t have an adverse affect on asthma, and in some cases, may help control symptoms. Yoga also uses relaxing breathing techniques called pranayama, which some believe helps to relieve asthma symptoms.
Other breathing techniques are considered alternative asthma remedies, although like pranayama, these techniques require more study to determine whether they are truly effective asthma remedies.
The Papworth series of breathing and relaxation techniques aims to match a person’s breathing to their activity, and includes deep belly- and nose-breathing techniques. Some claim Papworth breathing reduces asthma symptoms. At the very least, learning to use breathing techniques to relax and control stress is a worthwhile life skill, particularly if you are prone to stressful asthma attacks.
The Buteyko breathing technique has been used as an alternative asthma remedy in Russia since the 1950. Based on avoiding hyperventilation, Buteyko breathing also includes advice on breathing, nutrition and stress reduction.
Diet, Obesity and Asthma Remedies
Diet has been suggested as a possible cause of asthma, and some sources suggest restricting sugar and dairy products helps relieve childhood asthma.
Whether or not specific diets are effective asthma remedies, a healthy diet may help with asthma. the increase in childhood asthma is sometimes linked to the increase in childhood obesity. Obesity also increases the risk of acid reflux and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), which are also thought to aggravate asthma.
Herbal Asthma Remedies
A number of herbal supplements have, over the years, been offered as alternative asthma remedies. Evidence for most herbal remedies is anecdotal, with few large-scale studies available to either prove or disprove their effectiveness as asthma remedies. Herbal supplements that are commonly used as asthma remedies include:
- dried ivy
- ginko extract
- Indian ipecac
Ma huang, or ephedra, has also been suggested as an asthma remedy, but was banned by the FDA after being linked to several deaths. This illustrates the difficulty of using herbal supplements as asthma remedies: many herbal supplements can interact with other medications or cause unwanted side effects.
Herbal supplements vary widely in quality, dosage and the purity of their ingredients, making it difficult to determine exactly what you’re giving to your child. It’s unwise to assume that just because a herb is natural that it’s somehow safer than other asthma remedies. Remember that many prescription medicines are based on herbs and other substances found in the natural world.
If you choose to explore herbal alternative asthma remedies, it’s highly recommended that you discuss the herb with your child’s doctor first to ensure it does not interact with any other medication. Use the highest quality herbal supplement you can find, and avoid supplements that are mixtures of herbs. Discontinue any herbal remedy and seek medical advice if asthma symptoms worsen, or if you child experiences any of the following symptoms:
- rapid or irregular heartbeat
- skin rashes
Other Alternative Asthma Remedies
Other possible asthma remedies include:
- chiropractic treatment
None of these alternative asthma remedies are proven effective, although by the same token, their effectiveness has not been disproven either. Homeopathy asthma remedies uses minute amounts of allergens known to trigger asthma. While the amount of allergen used is unlikely to cause an allergic reaction, the possibility must be considered. Many doctors recommend avoiding homeopathic asthma remedies.
Regular exercise is another possible asthma remedy. While exercising won’t cure asthma, it helps strengthen the lungs, making it easier to breathe. Before a child with asthma starts an exercise program, it’s recommended parents discuss the matter with the child’s doctor.
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2007). Asthma treatment: Do complementary and alternative approaches work? Retrieved March 19, 2009, from the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/asthma-treatment/AS00032.
WebMD. (2008). Natural asthma remedies. Retrieved March 19, 2009, from the WebMD Web site: http://www.webmd.com/asthma/guide/natural-asthma-remedies.