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Managing Asthma in Kids

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By Muddy Creek Pediatrics – Dr. Todd Habel and Dr. Kathryn O’Malley
Mason, West Chester, Lebanon, Liberty Township
Greater Cincinnati USA

Did you know that in the United States alone, an average of one out of every 10 school-aged children have asthma? Asthma is considered to be one of the most common serious chronic diseases of childhood.  Here in  Ohio the rates can be even higher. The Ohio Department of Health determined in 2009 that asthma is seen in 15.2% of Ohio’s children, and is a leading cause of hospital emergency department visits and school absenteeism for children.

In response to these alarming statistics, and in an effort to raise public awareness of the risks faced everyday children living with asthma, Muddy Creek Pediatrics is participating in Asthma Awareness Month.

Asthma is a chronic disease of the lungs characterized by labored breathing, chest-tightness and coughing. Asthma is one of the ten leading chronic conditions that restrict activity, resulting in a reduced quality of life, increased need for emergency care and hospitalization, and in some cases results in death. The cause of asthma is unknown, and there is no cure. Nonetheless, people who have asthma can still lead active, productive lives if they control their asthma.

All kids with asthma need a doctor-prescribed asthma action plan to control symptoms and flare-ups. Control of asthma can be achieved by taking medications as recommended by your pediatrician and by avoiding contact with environmental triggers for asthma. If asthma is controlled, most consequences of the disease may be avoided. For many families, the learning process is the hardest part of controlling asthma. Between diagnosis and good control, there’s much to learn and a lot to do. Asthma control can take a little time and energy to master, and children can continue to have flare-ups while learning to control asthma. How long it takes to get asthma under control depends on a child’s age, the severity of symptoms, how often flare-ups occur, and how willing and able the family is to follow a doctor’s prescribed treatment plan.

The State of Ohio’s Department of Health published these facts about asthma and its impact on the quality of life for Ohio children:

  1. Children with asthma are significantly more likely to face a variety of health care access issues than children who do not have asthma.
  2. Children with reported asthma are more likely to have an unmet prescription need, an unmet health need, face a problem getting care and experience delayed or avoided care. Their parents are nearly twice as likely to face major medical costs as parents who do not report a child with asthma.
  3. In 2008, 20.3 percent of Ohio children with asthma missed one to five days of school due to asthma.
  4. In 2008, 39.8 percent of children with asthma had an episode of asthma or an asthma attack during the past 12 months.
  5. Ohio hospital discharge rates for a primary diagnosis of asthma exceeds all three of the Healthy People 2010 targets by at least 58 percent.
  6. Children under five have emergency department visit rates for asthma that are nearly twice Healthy People 2010 benchmarks.
  7. Children under five are significantly more likely than other child age groups to have an asthma attack or an emergency department visit for asthma.
  8. Since 1990, an average of 160 Ohio citizens per year die from asthma. Women and black citizens are significantly more likely to die of asthma.
  9. Studies have shown that many asthma deaths are preventable with appropriate care.

The top two causes of asthma in children are viral infection and allergies. Exposure to certain things in the child’s environment can lead to asthma “attacks” or make asthma worse. These are called triggers.  Doing what you can to work with your pediatrician to know what your child’s triggers are, plan how to avoid them, and treating for them proactively and preventatively can have significant impact on reducing the effects asthma can have on a child’s daily activities. To learn more about how to avoid asthma triggers, see this article by the Academy of Pediatrics.  We also have information about this on our website at www.muddycreekpeds.com.

Screening for asthma in children is important.  Asthma is a complicated disease and there are many different types of asthma. The symptoms of asthma are not always apparent.  Most people look for wheezing and shortness of breath, but they are not always present in a child suffering from asthma. Coughing, exercise intolerance and other symptoms can be indicative of asthma in children.  For example in a condition known as cough variant asthma in children is usually characterized by a chronic dry cough that is sometimes only present at night and can often be overlooked.  It is important to see your pediatrician here at Muddy Creek Pediatrics and talk to us about a screen for asthma that can be conducted with a few simple tests.

Too often, parents minimize treatment and direct it primarily at relief of symptoms (e.g., wheezing or dyspnea) managed with a limited course of medications. Short-term treatment of acute symptoms without defining and adequately managing asthma triggers, co-morbidities, airway hyperreactivity and degree of airway obstruction may lead to sub-optimal control of asthma and cause long-term damage to your child’s health and increase the risk of serious, life-threatening consequences. In contrast, a comprehensive approach in partnership with your pediatrician takes into consideration all the issues mentioned above, along with patient education, which usually results in increased compliance with recommendations, and ultimately the best possible health outcomes for the child.

If you have questions about asthma, or think your child may be experiencing signs of asthma, please call us here at Muddy Creek Pediatrics and let us help.  513.398.3900.

More information about asthma and its causes in children can be found on our website at www.muddycreekpeds.com/allergies.   You can find more information about managing asthma at KidsHealth.org. You can also find an Air Quality Forecast app embedded on our home page.

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