Asthma


Asthma is a disease that affects the gas exchange of your lungs. Patients who suffer from asthma can have narrowing/blocked airway passages. This narrowing/blockage can cause shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness. A pulmonary function test will help a physician determine a patient’s diagnosis. Other tests may focus on allergies, sinuses, or gastroesophageal reflux disease to rule out other causes of the symptoms.

Asthma is broken down into two broad types: extrinsic asthma and intrinsic asthma. The extrinsic type is thought to be caused by allergies, where the intrinsic type is considered non-allergic asthma.

Asthma can be maintained by identifying triggers, proper adherence to maintenance medications, and having emergency/rescue medications easily accessible when needed.

For more information on asthma, visit http://www.aafa.org 





Asthma In Infants

Few things are as unsettling as a sick baby, struggling to breathe – especially when it’s yours! And, figuring out the source of the problem can be a bit of a puzzle, particularly if your infant has asthma.  That’s because asthma in infants can have many faces. Babies with asthma often have sudden, severe wheezing and trouble breathing, just as older children do. But asthma in infants may also show up as chronic coughing, noisy breathing, or “chest colds.”1     

Asthma is a chronic lung disease. It makes the airways swell, tighten, and produce too much mucus. Severe asthma attacks can require a trip to the emergency room. And, uncontrolled asthma can damage the lungs over time.2 So, this is not something to ignore. If your baby has unexplained respiratory symptoms, stay alert and in communication with the pediatrician. Be prepared to tell the doctor how and when symptoms get worse. This can help rule out problems and confirm a diagnosis of asthma.

If anti-asthma medications relieve any wheezing and coughing, the diagnosis is pretty clear. But in some cases, other asthma mimics need to be ruled out. These include viral infections or congenital conditions or diseases such as cystic fibrosis.1 If it turns out your baby does have asthma, you may be wondering what caused it and what to do next! Although no one really knows the cause, your genes may play a role. Other factors may also come into play. Some doctors think breastfeeding the first year can help prevent asthma, but the evidence doesn’t yet support this.1,3

Keeping your baby away from common asthma triggers such as cigarette smoke, aerosol sprays, pet dander, and dust mites may lessen symptoms of asthma.3 If you suspect a certain food is causing an allergic reaction, this could also trigger asthma. Remove the food from your baby’s diet, and then reintroduce it, to see what happens. However, it’s hard to do very much about other common triggers, such as crying, respiratory infections, and weather changes.1

Prescription anti-inflammatory medications are the other mainstay of asthma treatment for infants. Your baby may need a combination of different types of medications. Be clear about whether you should give medication continuously or only when symptoms appear. A nebulizer uses forced air to send out a mist of medication that your baby can breathe through a mask. Don’t be alarmed if it takes a little while for your baby to get used to this. If your child is a toddler, it may be possible to use an inhaler with a spacer (a small tube).3

Are you concerned about trying these medications in such a small child? Remember that, along with your child’s pediatrician, I can help guide you in their safe and effective use. But whatever you do, don’t put off seeking care – even if you think your child may “outgrow” this problem. Some kids’ asthma does get better with time, but the best results come with adequate treatment.1,2    


Sources 

Cleveland Allergy & Asthma Center: “Asthma in Infants.” http://clevelandallergyasthmacenter.com/infants/

Nemours Foundation: “Wheezing and Asthma in Infants.” http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/asthma/wheezing_asthma.html

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: “Asthma in Infants.” http://www.aafa.org/display.cfm?id=8&sub=17&cont=160




Childhood Asthma and Obesity

Asthma is a chronic disease that causes airways to become inflamed. Does your child have this disease? If so, you’re no doubt familiar with symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and trouble breathing. Today, a whopping nine million children under age 18 have asthma – or have had it in the past.(1)

But with rates of childhood obesity climbing faster than a ten-year-old scrambling up a tree, this number could quickly skyrocket. Why? Because children who are overweight or obese are more likely to have asthma than children of a healthy weight. The strength of this link varies by race and ethnicity. It hurts Hispanic children the most.(2)           

Extra weight isn’t considered a cause of asthma, simply a contributor. But what, then, accounts for the connection between the two ? One theory is that a hormone found in fat tissue increases the body’s chronic inflammation. And this may increase the risk of asthma. (3,4)

Overweight or obese children have double the risk of asthma as their normal-weight peers if they become or remain heavy in their early school years. But, parents, listen up. Here’s the good news: If children slim down by age seven, they may wipe out that increased risk. It’s not quite as easy as erasing a string of numbers from a blackboard. But it’s way more powerful. That’s especially true given that childhood obesity is not only linked to asthma, but to a whole host of other health problems, including diabetes and high cholesterol.(4)

Extra weight also sends kids with asthma to the doctor and emergency room more often and requires higher doses of asthma medications.(2) In fact, a recent small study found that overweight and obese children needed about twice as much of a commonly used asthma medication (an inhaled corticosteroid) as healthy-weight kids. These findings are similar to those reported on earlier in adults. The response to the medication decreased as weight and body mass index (BMI) rose, according to study researcher Pia Hauk, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at National Jewish Health in Denver, CO.(3)

If your child has asthma, don’t forget that I’m here to help you and your child manage this condition as well as you can. Remember that your child’s asthma management plan may be different than another child’s. I can help guide you in understanding how and when to use asthma medications. Getting the right care by a knowledgeable allergist is also key. This is someone who has special training and experience in figuring out whether a child has asthma, what is triggering it, and how to move forward to treat it effectively.  Together, we can form an awesome team!(5) 

Sources

1.                  MedlinePlus: “Asthma in Children.” Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/asthmainchildren.html. Accessed March 5, 2012.

2.                  MedlinePlus: “Obesity Linked to Asthma in Children.” Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_122445.html. Accessed March 5, 2012.

3.                  MedlinePlus: “Heavy Kids May Not Respond as Well to Asthma Meds.” Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_122575.html. Accessed March 5, 2012.

4.                  MedlinePlus: “Overweight 7-Year-Olds Face Higher Risk of Asthma.” Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_120071.html. Accessed March 5, 2012.

5.                  American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology: “Childhood Asthma: Tips to Remember.” http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/at-a-glance/childhood-asthma.aspx