Many Children With Asthma Use Their Inhalers Incorrectly, Leading To Serious Complications
Is Your Kid Getting the Right Asthma Treatment?
Six million American kids now have asthma—twice as many as 20 years ago. This mysterious epidemic panics parents, confounds doctors, and sends nearly 700,000 kids to the ER each year withI can't breathe emergencies.
What experts suspect:Childhood obesity, an onslaught of asthma triggers (dust, pet dander, emissions from stoves and heaters, and outdoor air pollution), and even "hyperhygienic" homes that coddle infants' immune systems may all play a role.
What they know:Cutting-edge research shows that the best lung protector for children with asthma is an inhaler loaded with daily doses of corticosteroids. Yet three out of four asthmatic kids are untreated—in part because potent steroids scare many parents and family doctors.
"Children with asthma have inflamed, irritated airways. Without daily controller medicine—a steroid—airways may scar and harden, making them less responsive to medication over time," says pediatric asthma specialist Michael Welch, MD, of the Allergy and Asthma Medical Group and Research Center in San Diego.
What parents need to know:
Steroid side effects are rare. Research shows that suspected side effects of inhaled corticosteroids, such as stunted growth, thinning bones, and vision-robbing cataracts, are actually extremely rare. Risks from untreated asthma—chronic coughing, fatigue, activity restrictions, and frequent asthma attacks—are far more likely to occur, Welch says.
Babies also require treatment.Smart pediatricians are recommending daily inhaled steroids for infants as young as 6 months if they evensuspect asthma. "There's no lab test to diagnose asthma in children under 5 years," says Welch. "Doctors look for signs such as unexplained coughing, recurrent chest colds or bronchitis, or wheezing, as well as a family history of asthma. If the child has asthma, breathing will improve dramatically in response to medication." Expect improvement within the first week; if not, call the doctor.
Wheezers need checkups.Any child or teen who wheezes or complains of trouble breathing or chest tightness needs to see a doctor. The doc will check lung function and may even administer an emergency asthma med to see if it helps. "Asthma rates have escalated forallchildren, regardless of where they live," Welch says. "Ignoring symptoms could make asthma worse later on, or lead to a dire breathing emergency."
All asthmatic kids need a plan.Shocker: Welch says 90% have no treatment plan. Your child's doctor should prescribe daily corticosteroidsplusa rescue medicine to stop an asthma attack. She should also write a plan outlining drug dosing, asthma triggers to avoid, and steps to take in case of breathing problems. Give a copy of the plan and duplicate drugs to the school nurse.
Video: What is Asthma? - The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (2 of 4)
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