Asthma Watch

FEBRUARY 01, 2009

Targeting GERD Improves Kids? Asthma

Children with both asthma and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may see asthma symptoms improve if GERD is treated first.

Whereas the association between asthma and GERD remains unclear, researchers have seen that antireflux medicines can sometimes help asthma.

In the current study, the researchers explored this relationship in 62 children with asthma. The participants, between 6 and 11 years old, had esophageal acid testing. Of the patients, 44 with abnormal results indicative of GERD received antireflux therapy (either medical or surgical), while the remaining 18 children served as a control group and continued their asthma regimen.

After 2 years, the researchers found that children getting antireflux therapy had <1 asthma flare-up per year, compared with 3 flare-ups per year among other children.

The research was recently presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

Wheeze with Rhinovirus Ups Asthma Risk

Children who wheeze when they have rhinovirus infection—the most common cause of colds—face greater odds of developing asthma later during childhood. The study, reported in the October 1, 2008, issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, showed that it is rhinovirus-produced wheezing that parents should be most concerned about.

For the study, the researchers followed nearly 300 newborns with one or both parents who have allergies or asthma. The investigators evaluated them for the presence of respiratory viruses and the development of asthma until they reached age 6.

The findings showed that children who wheezed with rhinovirus during the first year of life were nearly 3 times more prone to have asthma when they reached age 6, compared with children who wheezed with respiratory syncytial virus who did not have increased asthma risk. The researchers found that children who wheezed with rhinovirus in their second year of life were >6 times as likely to have asthma, and rhinovirus-associated wheezing at age 3 showed a >3-fold increased risk.

Barriers Impede Good Asthma Care

Poor access to appropriate care and distrust of physicians are among the issues posing barriers to good asthma management.

Of the patients hospitalized for the condition, 60% are not sticking with an asthma management plan. Minorities are less apt to visit an asthma specialist, instead receiving asthma care in emergency departments and with inconsistent follow-up.

Whereas factors such as low health literacy and cultural or religious beliefs toward medicine may be some of the reasons, Alan Luskin, MD, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, said that individuals are not aware that active management can have a positive impact.

Steps to Master Asthma Control

Pharmacists and physicians can work together to ensure patients have good asthma control. The Mayo Clinic offers 3 steps that clinicians can use to counsel patients.

  1. Track symptoms. Patients should keep an asthma diary. At each doctor visit, patients should discuss with their doctor the severity of their symptoms and any changes since the last appointment.
  2. Check lung function. Patients should use lung function tests to assess how well they can breathe.
  3. Adjust treatment. Based on patients' symptoms and lung function tests, patients and their physicians can make any changes to treatment if needed.

Kids at Risk for Allergies Can Get Vaccines

A study, published in the November 2008 issue of Allergy, found that common childhood immunizations do not up the risk of more severe eczema or allergies in children at greater risk for developing allergies.

For the study, the researchers looked at the effect of immunization in the first year of life in 2184 infants between the ages of 1 and 2 years with active dermatitis and a family history of allergy. The results indicated that 65% of the infants showed no signs of having allergies. In addition, no correlation was found between immunization with any particular routine childhood vaccine and greater risk of allergic sensitization or more severe eczema.

F A S T   F A C T: Individuals over the age of 65 are much more likely to die from asthma, compared with other age groups.