Children with complex physical disabilities often have respiratory problems. Respiratory problems play a major role in the life quality and expectancy of these children. Among severely disabled children in three US institutions, 77% of deaths were a result of pneumonia; in a large community survey of children and adults with learning disability, 52% of deaths were caused by respiratory problems.
WHY IS THERE A HIGH PREVALENCE OF RESPIRATORY DISEASE IN CHILDREN WITH SEVERE DISABILITIES?
Dysphagia or swallowing problems, is where aspiration of food or saliva can cause chest infections. This is a very common problem that can occur in Cerebral Palsy or from an acquired brain injury. The damage to the brain can affect the coordination of swallowing which although seems to be a very simple task is quite complex.
Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that occurs most often during the growth spurt just before puberty. While scoliosis can be caused by conditions such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, the cause of most scoliosis is unknown. Most cases of scoliosis are mild, but some children develop spine deformities that continue to get more severe as they grow. Severe scoliosis can be disabling. An especially severe spinal curve can reduce the amount of space within the chest, making it difficult for the lungs to function properly. To avoid or slow down scoliosis it is important to provide the correct support for your child, this means the right wheelchair (moulded if necessary), a second skin or brace and equipment that allows for different positioning throughout the day.
Little to no Mobility
Typically, a child with cerebral palsy or a brain injury has a lower activity level than most children. When a child is unable to exercise in a manner that causes deep breathing, air passages are more likely to become infected and the muscles used for breathing aren’t fully exercised. Exercising the lungs to clear phlegm. This is why it is important that your child participates in some kind of therapy programme, so that they can achieve different positions throughout the day are key, see Therapy section.
When a baby or child has gastro-oesophageal reflux, the food and drink travels down the foodpipe as normal. However, some of the mixture of food, drink and acid travels back up the foodpipe, instead of passing through to the large and small intestines. As the food and drink is mixed with acid from the stomach, it can irritate the lining of the foodpipe, making it sore. This is gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD). When the liquid travels back up the windpipe sometimes it can enter the lungs and cause a chest infection. Ways to avoid this are positioning when feeding, so that the child is upright but also and very importantly thicker food.
My son Jago had recurrent chest infections when his nutrition was only formula. After reading reports on how Real Food blending helped to eliminate reflux ergo chest infections…I began to look into it. Jago is now on a Real Food Diet and has on average one chest infection per year, much lower than before. See Nutrition
Low Immune System
Eating healthy foods and participating in regular exercise is an important aspect of maintaining overall health. That’s not something that changes if a person has a disability. There is no doubt that severely disabled children have a lower immune system, it is important then that they receive healthy Nutrition and extra supplements within their diet to bolster this. See Blended Diet.