Asthma. It's shockingly common, affecting as many as 10 percent of kids in the U.S. Now, in a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, experts say that number is closer to 25 percent in some communities, especially poor ones. Why? Because according to the report, which is published in the November 2016 issue of Pediatrics, kids living in poverty have a higher risk of being exposed to environmental allergens and pollutants such as second-hand smoke and dust mites. And incredibly, the report says reducing exposure to these types of pollutants can be just as effective as medication to control the disease.
Of course, every child is different. But the report says exposure to indoor allergens exacerbates the condition. Therefore, those with asthma should avoid certain triggers, including:
"This is the first report put out by the AAP that provides comprehensive information for pediatricians about how to identify potential asthma triggers and what to recommend to reduce exposure to these triggers," the study's lead author Elizabeth C. Matsui, MD, MHS, FAAP, told Parents.com. She recommends allergy testing for any child with persistent symptoms, or who requires frequent or daily medications for asthma. "The allergy test results help to identify allergens in the home that contribute to the child's asthma symptoms and exacerbations."
"Working with your child's pediatrician to identify you child's asthma triggers through allergy testing and removing the triggers from your home can lead to significant improvements in your child's asthma," Dr. Matsui told us. "These improvements may include less need for daily controller medication or albuterol (rescue medication) and fewer asthma exacerbations."
Some kids will still need medication, of course. But another study published earlier this month found that many kids use asthma inhalers incorrectly, leading to unnecessary asthma attacks, emergency room visits, and hospital admissions.
"We see a lot of children, in fact, who just don't know how to use their inhalers at all," BJ Lanser, MD, a pediatrician and asthma specialist at National Jewish Health in Denver said in a press release. That could be due to never learning how to properly use an inhaler, he added.
According to the study, the problem is that poor inhaler technique fails to deliver medications deep into kids' airways, where they're needed. One of the more common mistakes kids make is using an inhaler without a spacer (a plastic tube attached to the mouthpiece). When a child activates the inhaler, the spacer allows the medication to mix with air, so it can be inhaled more effectively.
"Without a spacer, 70 to 80 percent of the medicine ends up in the child's mouth and never gets deep into the lungs," said Dr. Lanser, adding, "If they continue to make those mistakes dose after dose, their symptoms begin to worsen and often those children end up in the hospital."
He offers these tips to help children get the most out of their asthma medicine:
"Using proper inhaler technique every time you use your rescue or controller medicines is crucial, to ensure that the right amount of medicine gets where it needs to go, deep in the lungs. Talk with your doctor's office to make sure you're using your inhaler correctly, and using a spacer appropriate for your type of inhaler," Dr. Lanser told Parents.com.
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of coffee.