When I set out to produce a QUEST story on the latest research on the causes of childhood asthma, I didn’t expect to discover how little researchers know about this question. They do understand the lung disease’s mechanisms: a chronic inflammation of the airways causes an overreaction to allergens like pollen and dust mites, which in turn brings on symptoms like wheezing, coughing and a dangerous tightening of the chest and shortness of breath.

The rate of asthma in children younger than five increased 160 percent between 1980 and 1994.
The rate of asthma in children younger than five increased 160 percent between 1980 and 1994.

But asthma researchers are still very much working to figure out what, besides changes in the way asthma is diagnosed, might account for the 160 percent rise in the rate of asthma in children younger than 5 that took place between 1980 and 1994. Our QUEST TV story looks at one interesting hypothesis, called the “hygiene hypothesis.” The hypothesis proposes that as certain types of bacteria have become less and less present in our lives, we have developed allergic diseases in response.

I also asked researchers if their findings allowed them to make recommendations to parents on what they might be able to do to help reduce the risk of their children developing asthma. Although our two interviewees were careful to caution how little scientists know with certainty at this point, they were willing to venture some advice, which you’ll see in our web-only video.

Producer’s Notes: Asthma 11 March,2016Gabriela Quirós


Gabriela Quirós

Gabriela Quirós is a video producer for KQED Science and the coordinating producer for Deep Look. She started her journalism career 25 years ago as a newspaper reporter in Costa Rica, where she grew up. She won two national reporting awards there for series on C-sections and organic agriculture, and developed a life-long interest in health reporting. She moved to the Bay Area in 1996 to study documentary filmmaking at the University of California-Berkeley, where she received master’s degrees in journalism and Latin American studies. She joined KQED as a TV producer when its science series QUEST started in 2006 and has covered everything from Alzheimer’s to bee die-offs to dark energy. She has won five regional Emmys and has shared awards from the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Society of Environmental Journalists. Independent from her work in KQED's science unit, she produced and directed the hour-long documentary Beautiful Sin, about the surprising story of how Costa Rica became the only country in the world to outlaw in vitro fertilization. The film aired nationally on public television stations in 2015.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor