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Parents can have big impact on little people with asthma

Submitted by on Tuesday, 14 October 2008 No Comment

Once, and only once, did I consider backing off Big Guy’s asthma treatment.

He’d just turned 2 and was having a comfortable, wheeze-free summer. He’d been undergoing twice-daily treatments of Albuterol and Pulmicort through the nebulizer since he’d been diagnosed 10 months earlier, a half-hour procedure he hated every time and one that gave him even more to rail about after That Baby Who Ruined His Life moved in.

“He’s going great! Can I drop the treatment for a while?” I asked hopefully, seeing a a bit more sleep in my future.

“Don’t even think about it,” he warned. “It’s safe to cut back to one, but if you eliminate it, there’s a danger he won’t be strong enough to fight it off when cold season hits in the fall.”

Big Guy’s allergist is a wonderful human being who’s raised three children of his own and is a board-certified pediatrician to boot. He also gives both guys toys during every checkup. I’m a bit bitter about that — he was my allergist before he was Big Guy’s, and all I ever got was two pokes in the arm every week.

But he was exactly right to issue that warning to a parent relatively new on the childhood asthma scene.

Now there’s quantifiable support for exactly how spot on he was.

A new study by a team of Harvard experts, published this month in Pediatrics, shows that parents are a key factor in determining a young asthmatic’s health. We’re more important than ethnic or economic factors.

The bottom line: Children with asthma largely are as health as their parents expect them to be.

“Our findings suggest that parents’ expectations and perceptions are key factors influencing how well their children’s asthma is controlled, and how effectively they use medications,” Dr. Tracy Lieu, the study’s senior author, said in a news release.

And it’s not that some parents “expect” their kids to be sick. It’s just that they don’t know.

Many folks think asthma is a sometimes thing, a disease you treat only when it flares up. They don’t realize that constant vigilance will keep it from flaring up. I certainly wasn’t fully aware until Big Guy’s doctor schooled me that summer, even though my mother had struggled with asthma for years.

Researchers believe more doctors and health care personnel need to work with parents and educate them about treatments. In other words, everyone needs an allergist like Big Guy’s.

As a result of that long-ago lecture, Big Guy has been largely symptom-free for three years. He wheezes occasionally and did have a full-blown attack this spring as wildfire after wildfire kept the air sooted down for weeks. It was his first attack in four years.

For the most part, he’s a running, rushing, soccer-playing 5-year-old. One of his cousins was astounded about a year ago to hear that he’s asthmatic.

“Really? A friend of mine has asthma and she can’t run at all.”

Thanks, doc! Without your warnings, that might not be the case. Even Harvard agrees.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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