Perspectives

Paediatric respiratory health – the importance of taking an environmental history

Perspectives

Paediatric respiratory health – the importance of taking an environmental history

Peter D. Sly

Figures

© soloviova liudmyla/ stock.adobe.com models used for illustrative purposes only
© soloviova liudmyla/ stock.adobe.com models used for illustrative purposes only

Abstract

With asthma and chronic respiratory disease increasingly prevalent in Australia, intervention in early life is imperative to reducing lifelong disease risk. Doctors who treat children should be aware of the consequences of important environmental exposures in childhood and ask about these when appropriate.

Key Points

  • Modern Australian environments contain an increasing variety of chemicals and produce emissions that increase the risk of chronic respiratory disease, yet awareness of these risks is low.
  • There is growing evidence that fetal and early-life exposure to air pollutants and other environmental contaminants increase lifelong risk of chronic disease
  • Childhood exposure to toxicants can occur from the environment (e.g. contamination of air, water and soil), in the home and at school or childcare (e.g. cleaning and personal care products, candles and incense, and heaters), and ambient air (e.g. bushfires, motor vehicles and industrial emissions).
  • Environmental history taking is key to identifying exposures that can increase the risk of chronic disease and exacerbate existing respiratory conditions in paediatric patients.