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Daily Dose

Asthma

1:30 to read

May is Asthma Awareness Month and I am certainly seeing many patients whose asthma and wheezing is getting the best of them right now. With all of the major weather changes across the country, pollen counts through the roof, and upper respiratory viruses still circulating, there are quite a few triggers to set off wheezing.

 

Asthma is a chronic lung disease and affects more than 6 million children in the United States. Asthma causes wheezing and chest tightness in some, while it may only cause nighttime cough and cough with exercise in others. There is not one single presentation to asthma and the diagnosis is best made with a good history and physical exam.  Although asthma is a chronic disease you may only have attacks when something is bothering your lungs (triggers).

 

The biggest challenge I see as a pediatrician is teaching both parents and children to recognize their triggers and to know what their medications are. Every patient should have an asthma action plan, but in some cases, a child may have only wheezed once..and their parents received an inhaler or a nebulizer but really does not know what to do if their child wheezes again.

 

If your child has wheezed before, and you have a family history of wheezing, your child has a greater chance of wheezing again.  You should have a discussion with your pediatrician about how to recognize wheezing in your child. At the same time, if you have ever received a medication for wheezing, make sure you know the name or names of the medication. I see many parents who come in to the office and they may have been seen at an ER or urgent care when they were noted to be wheezing. They received an “inhaler”, but the parent has no clue as to the name of the inhaler (they may say, “it is blue”), and they don’t understand how the medications work.

 

The two points I try to make with every patient I see with wheezing:  

#1  Know the names of the medications that you have

#2  Know what the medications do

 

There are two issues with asthma, lung inflammation and broncho spasm (narrowing of the airways). So…there are two medications commonly used to treat these issues.  Inhaled steroids (there are tons of brands) are used as a preventative and decrease inflammation, while albuterol (again tons of brands) is a broncho-dilator and opens up the narrowed airways.  I see too many patients that bring in a bag full of medications, from numerous doctors and still don’t understand what their medications are used for, when to use them and that several of their inhalers, while having different names, are actually the same medicine.

 

Lastly, children with divorced parents need to have inhalers available at both homes. I think it is too complicated to try and have parents hand the inhaler or medication back and forth and think they will not forget or lose the medication.  Ask your doctor to have meds for both houses.

Seeing that is is Asthma Awareness month, get your medications out and make sure that they are not expired and if you don’t understand how or when to use them, make an appointment with your pediatrician and get an asthma action plan in place. Be prepared!  

Parenting

Winter at Home: Managing Dry Indoor Heat

1:45

Once winter starts settling in, the home furnaces are cranked on, followed by itchy skin, upset sinuses and cracked lips. What fun.

It’s also when the home is sealed tight, trying to prevent heat loss.

While some areas of the country are still experiencing warmer weather, many are feeling the effects of old man winter.

Dry winter air leeches moisture, leaving your family’s skin as dry and cracked as a salt flat and sinuses as parched as the Sahara in summer. Adults and kids may wake up with a bit of a bloody nose as well.

You also start noticing static electricity while brushing your hair or petting the family pet.  Clothes start acting funny as well, sticking to you like saran wrap. It’s literally shocking.

Here are a few tips to help you combat dry indoor air, preserve the moisture in your family’s skin and nasal passages, and avoid pet-induced static shocks this winter.

In the winter, the cold air that seeps into your home from the outside has a lower humidity -- meaning that it carries very little moisture. You crank up the heat inside your house, which adds warmth but doesn't increase the amount of moisture in the air.

Because wintertime humidity is so low, what little moisture that is around is quickly sucked up into the air. Moisture also evaporates from your body, leaving your skin, nose, and throat parched.

One way to combat all this dry air is using a humidifier. Running a humidifier in your home will add moisture to dry, heated air. The moist air will help keep your skin, mouth,  and nose lubricated, and helps prevent those nasty static shocks. Your goal is to aim for a comfortable home humidity level of between 30% and 50%. Don't crank up the humidifier higher than that, though, or you could develop another problem – mold, fungi, dust mites,  and other tiny critters. Make sure to keep your humidifier clean so that it doesn't send dust and germs spewing into your house.

Sinuses often take a beating during the winter. Cold, dry air pulls moisture from your mouth, and nose, leaving your nasal passages dried out and your throat dry. Dry nostrils are more likely to crack and give you a nosebleed.

Why do kids and adults get sick more often during the winter months? Because your nose needs gooey mucus to trap viruses and other icky invaders before they can get you sick, dry nostrils can also make you more vulnerable to colds, sinus infections, and the flu. That's especially a problem in winter, when bacteria and viruses can tend to linger longer in the dry air after someone coughs or sneezes.

When you turn up the thermostat in your home, your heating system kicks up clouds of dust, pollen, and other allergens that can inflame your sinuses. Cold, dry air plus those allergens can also irritate your airways. For some kids with asthma, cold and dry air can lead to a narrowing of breathing passages and trigger an attack.

One way to help add moisture back is by keeping hydrated. Keep your skin and mouth moist by drinking water throughout the day. Don’t like water? Try putting in a little tea or juice to add flavor. It’s a little easier to drink more water in the summer, because …well… you’re sweating more, triggering a thirst attack. It takes a little more effort in the winter to keep hydrated but the pay-off is just as valuable.

You may also find yours or little ones fingers developing cracks and dealing with dry itchy skin in the winter because cold air sucks out the skin’s moisture. While it’s tempting, taking hot showers can worsen dry, itchy skin by removing the natural layer of oil that preserves and protects the skin's moisture. Something we seem to have plenty of in the summer.

To help your skin out, shorten your shower time. Make sure that your child’s bath water or shower is warm, but not hot and he or she is using a gentle soap. Fifteen minutes should be the maximum time spent in the shower and even shorter if you’re clean sooner.

Alas, don’t forget to put a moisturizer on your child or have some available for your older kids. A thick oil-based moisturizer is best. The oil in the product will lock moisture into the skin and keep it from drying out. Moisturizers come in different forms, but ointments will provide the most protection for dry skin.  Make sure to apply moisturizing sunscreen with a minimum SPF 30 to exposed skin before going outside. Also apply a lip balm or petroleum jelly to protect against chapped lips. Help keep the nasal passageways moist by using saltwater (saline) drops or rubbing a little petroleum jelly into each nostril gently with a cotton swab.

There are some advantages to winter – you can dress in layers (you can only take so much off in the summer), walking is easier than when you’re dripping sweat and snow covered trees have a certain mystique and beauty to them. Other than that, winter is pretty brutal to our skin and nasal passages- but we can fight back by keeping hydrated, using creams to soften our skin and adding more moisture to the air while we hunker down; cozy and warm with our family indoors.

Story source: Lisa Bernstein, MD, http://www.webmd.com/women/home-health-and-safety-9/dry-indoor-air?page=2

Your Child

“Holiday Asthma” and Children

2:00

Mix together a Christmas tree, decorations pulled out of dusty storage; perhaps a new kitten or puppy, plus dry heat in the house from cold temperatures and you’ve got a recipe for “Holiday Asthma.” Those are just a few of the things that can trigger a child’s asthma attack.

“Each individual‘s asthma triggers differ,” says Kristy Miller, a spokesperson for the Environment Protection Agency. "However, from an indoor environmental perspective, the primary asthma triggers include secondhand smoke, pet dander, mold, dust mites, and pest droppings. During the winter months, many people spend more time indoors, so steps should be taken to reduce or eliminate exposures to these environmental asthma triggers."

How you can you help your child avoid these common holiday triggers? We found helpful information when WebMD turned to an expert for advice.

One dangerous trigger is respiratory infection. Respiratory infections are rampant during the winter months, particularly during the holidays, when families travel around the country, with millions of other sneezing and coughing merry-makers.

“Asthma flair-ups are frequently due to infections,” says Richard Honsinger, MD, of the Los Alamos Medical Care Clinic. “And during the holidays, we see an increased number of respiratory infections with all the traveling and with people sharing their bugs that cause asthma symptoms to worsen.”

How can you avoid these harmful infections? One solution is to avoid traveling during one of the most contagious times of the year. The other is to make sure that your child and other family members properly wash their hands. That may sound too simple, but a good scrubbing with warm water and soap for at least 15 seconds--can reduce the number of germs your kids pick up over the course of the day, which in turn helps lowers the risk of catching a cold and triggering asthma.

Many families have switched from using real trees to artificial Christmas trees for convenience and to avoid allergies. However, the actual culprit may be the decorations.

“People get all their ornaments out of their basements and closets and they’re covered in dust,” Honsinger says.

The Christmas tree all lit up with warm lights and decorated with old bulbs is a perfect recipe for asthma trouble in kids, so wipe it down with a damp cloth before you set it up in the middle of your living room to remove outdoor allergens. Before you drag your holiday storage containers out of the basement, give them a good dusting so they’re free of mites, pest droppings and other unpleasant holiday treats, and wash decorations before you put them on the tree.

Roaring fireplaces not only provide a traditional backdrop for the holidays, but also come in handy for warming the house. Unfortunately, fireplaces can trigger asthma.

“Fireplaces and stoves and things that leak smoke are things that increase the asthma response,” says Honsinger. “It’s not a true allergy--you can’t test for smoke allergies on the skin--but we know that particulate matter or burning material in the air causes an increase in asthma symptoms.”

Particulate matter can also mean exhaust and cigarette smoke, explains Honsinger. So before you set off to visit family members or friends that smoke, remember to pack your child’s medicine – and be prepared to head home early if asthma symptoms flare up.

Then there is the new kitty or puppy issue. Giving your child a puppy or kitten for Christmas sounds like an enchanting idea, but don’t forget that that adorable little bundle is covered in dander--a common asthma trigger.

“Parents get their kids a new dog for Christmas, when they don’t know if the kids are allergic or not,” says Honsinger, who is a professor of clinical medicine at the University of New Mexico. “It’s a time of year when its cold, so pets are indoors more often than not, so their dander is inside as well and we see an influx of pet allergies and asthma symptoms.”

If your child has asthma, eczema or other allergies, it’s probably a good idea to have him or her skin tested for animal allergies -before you start picking out a puppy or kitten name.

During the winter months, cold air is something most people aren’t going to be to able to avoid unless you live in a warm region of the world and even then- surprises happen.

“We know that breathing cold, dry air will increase asthma symptoms,” says Honsinger. “It excites the receptors in the lung causing asthma to come on quickly.”

Cold air dries the lungs out, and makes the chest tighten, explains Honsinger. Warm, moist air, however, is just what a kid with asthma needs.

“During cold weather have your child wear a scarf when he’s outside,” says Honsinger. ”They breath through the cloth and it catches moisture. Then they breath back in through it and it warms the air and makes the air moist. Then they’re less likely to get that feeling of tightness.”

To be on the safe side, if your child is playing outside, monitor her peak flow every hour or so. 

“Use a peak flow meter so you can see how fast your child’s air is coming out,” says Honsinger. “Use a set of guidelines that you set up with your physician, so if the peak flow drops below a certain level, use medicine. If it drops further, you better seek help. It’s something to watch.”

Because pharmacies and pediatricians may have irregular hours during the holidays, be prepared in advance. “If your child has asthma, have your medicine supply intact over the holidays when everything closes down,” says Honsinger. “If your child uses an inhaler or a nebulizer, make sure you have these on hand, so if asthma symptoms flare up in the middle of Christmas, you have something at home to start treatment right away.”

If your child doesn’t respond to available treatment, take him or her to the emergency room. Asthma isn’t something you want to let get the upper hand.

By applying some of these tips, your child may be able to escape “Holiday asthma!”

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Kids Doctor!

Story source: Heather Hatfield, https://www.webmd.com/asthma/features/holiday-asthma-triggers-for-kids#1

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Asthma

Asthma Season is Here!

Your Baby

Special Baby Formulas Don’t Prevent Asthma, Allergies

2:00

Parents that have a baby at risk or allergies, asthma or type-1 Diabetes sometimes turn to hydrolyzed milk formulas in hopes of lowering their infant’s risk of developing these problems.

A new review of the data on hydrolyzed formulas finds that there is no evidence that they actually protect children from these types of autoimmune disorders.

"We found no consistent evidence to support a protective role for partially or extensively hydrolyzed formula," concluded a team led by Robert Boyle of Imperial College London in England.

"Our findings conflict with current international guidelines, in which hydrolyzed formula is widely recommended for young formula-fed infants with a family history of allergic disease," the study authors added.

In the study, Boyle's team looked at data from 37 studies that together included more than 19,000 participants and were conducted between 1946 and 2015.

The investigators found that infants who received hydrolyzed cow's milk formula did not have a lower risk of asthma, allergies (such as eczema, hay fever, food allergies) or type 1 diabetes compared to those who received human breast milk or a standard cow's milk formula.

The researchers also found no evidence to support an FDA-approved claim that a partially hydrolyzed formula could reduce the risk of the skin disorder eczema, or another conclusion that hydrolyzed formula could prevent an allergy to cow's milk.

Other experts in the United States said that the finding casts doubt on the usefulness of these kinds of specialized products.

"Allergies and autoimmune diseases [such as asthma, and type 1 diabetes] are on the rise and it would be nice if we did have a clear route to preventing them," said Dr. Ron Marino, associate chair of pediatrics at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y.

"Unfortunately, despite U.S. Food and Drug Administration support [for hydrolyzed formula], the data are not compelling," he said.

Dr. Punita Ponda is assistant chief of allergy and immunology at Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y. She stressed that when it comes to infant feeding, breast milk is by far the healthiest option.

However, "current mainstream guidelines for infant formula do recommend that parents consider using hypoallergenic formula if a close family member -- like an older brother or sister -- has a food allergy," she said. That was based on prior studies supporting some kind of protective effect, Ponda said.

Protein hydrolysate formulas were first introduced in the 1940s for babies who could not tolerate the milk protein in cow’s milk.

Protein hydrolyzed formulas are formulas composed of proteins that are partially broken down or “hydrolyzed.” They are also called hydrolysates.

There are two broad categories of protein hydrolysates:

•       Partially hydrolyzed formulas (pHF)

•       Extensively hydrolyzed formulas (eHF)

Both partially and extensively hydrolyzed protein formulas are based on casein or whey, which are proteins found in milk.  

Hydrolyzed formulas have had the protein chains broken down into shorter and more easy-to -digest chains. The more extensively hydrolyzed the formula, the fewer potentially allergenic compounds remain.

Hydrolyzed formulas are also more expensive than regular cow’s milk formulas and often harder to find.

The researchers review was published March 08, 2016 in the BMJ.

Story sources: Robert Preidt, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/news/20160308/special-infant-formulas-dont-shield-against-asthma-allergies-study

Victoria Groce, http://foodallergies.about.com/od/adultfoodallergies/p/hypoallergenic.htm

 

Your Child

The Eczema, Allergies and Asthma March

1:45

Eczema refers to a number of different skin conditions in which the skin becomes red and irritated and sometimes has small, fluid filled bumps that ooze.

The most common cause of eczema is atopic dermatitis (sometimes called infantile eczema), which affects older kids as well as infants.

Children with eczema may eventually get food allergies, hay fever, or asthma. But you can take steps to soothe the itch and possibly cut the risk of allergies.

While most experts don't think eczema is purely allergic, it's clearly connected to allergic conditions like food allergies, hay fever, and asthma.

·      Up to 80% of kids with eczema get hay fever or asthma later in childhood.

·       35% of adults with asthma or nasal allergies had eczema as kids.

·      If a mom has allergies, there's almost a 1 in 3 chance that her baby will have eczema.

·      37% of kids with moderate to severe eczema also have food allergies.

For some kids, eczema and allergies develop in a specific order, as they get older. It starts with eczema, then food allergies, then asthma, and then hay fever. It's called the allergic march.

But just because your child has eczema doesn't mean they'll get these other conditions. It just means there's a higher risk.

There are several things that can increase a child’s risk of being part of the allergic march.  Kids who get eczema at a young age may be more likely to have allergies or asthma later. Kids with worse eczema symptoms may be more likely to get allergies or asthma.

You can do some things that might lower your child's chances of worsening eczema, asthma, or allergies. The evidence isn't clear, so talk to your doctor or your child's pediatrician. Depending on the situation, the doctor might recommend:

Breastfeeding your baby: It might lower the risk of eczema, later allergies, or asthma.

Diet changes: If your baby has a high risk of allergic problems, some doctors recommend changes in diet. Breastfeeding for at least 4 months can help protect your child. “Hydrolyzed” formula might help protect formula-fed babies.

Other ways to keep your child's eczema under control include:

Get allergy testing. If you can pin the problem on a specific allergen, you can figure out ways to avoid it.

Use a moisturizer. Go for thick creams and ointments that stop the skin from drying out.

Keep fingernails short. Your child will do less damage to the skin from scratching.

Avoid irritants. Always use unscented soap and laundry detergent. Stay away from cigarette smoke.

Watch for problems. If your child's eczema seems to be getting worse -- or if they get allergy symptoms, like congestion or a runny nose -- see a doctor. The sooner you get treatment, the sooner your child will feel better.

In many cases, eczema goes into remission and symptoms may disappear altogether for months or even years.

For many kids, it begins to improve by the age of 5 or 6; others may have flare-ups throughout adolescence and early adulthood.

In some kids, the condition may improve but then restart as they enter puberty, when hormones, stress, and irritating skin products or cosmetics are introduced. Some people will have some degree of dermatitis into adulthood, with areas of itching and a dry, scaly appearance.

Eczema is not contagious, so there's no need to keep a baby or child who has it away from siblings, other kids, or anyone else.

Story sources; http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/eczema/child-eczema-14/allergies?ecd=wnl_prg_050116&ctr=wnl-prg-050116_nsl-promo-4_title&mb=HJinmVxrQQBBWXaWABbkR%40HnVev1imbCiW2HnNaB9FE%3d

http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/eczema-atopic-dermatitis.html#

 

 

 

Daily Dose

Asthmatic Kids & Colds

2.00 to read

Cold season continues to hang on and for anyone who has a child with asthma, you are aware that wheezing will often accompany winter colds.

I have spent a lot of time in the last week listening to wheezy chest, lots of coughing and seeing many children who need to be using their asthma medications. After a quiet summer of no coughing it is a good time to review asthma and the medications to use to treat as “wheezy season” is here!

Many children will wheeze once in their lifetime and I tell parents, “everyone gets one free wheezing episode”. But if a child wheezes on several occasions and responds to bronchodilators they probably have asthma. If you throw in a positive family history of wheezing as well as wheezing that begins each time a child gets a cold it is time to discuss the diagnosis of asthma and the treatments that go along with the diagnosis.

The good news about asthma is that there are a lot of great medications available for treatment. With that being said I think it is important to teach parents about the pathophysiology of asthma and then talk about treatment. I tell my patients/parents that understanding wheezing is somewhat analogous to being a medical intern. You have to see the symptoms for a while and then you finally “learn it, and know it” and then can begin to understand treatment.

For a parent with a child with asthma it is the same process. Each repeated wheezing episode should get easier for a parent to know what they are dealing with and when and how to start treatment. Many times they will not need the doctor to be involved once they are comfortable with the medications.

In fairly simplistic terms, there are really two components to asthma, airway narrowing (brochospasm) and airway inflammation. In most cases it is important to be treating both symptoms. The most common trigger for asthma in children is a viral upper respiratory infection. When you get a viral upper respiratory infection the virus causes airway inflammation and irritation in all of us. That is one reason we all cough with a cold.

For an asthmatic child it also causes bronchospasm and resultant wheezing. By the time you audibly hear your child wheezing they are what we pediatricians refer to as “being tight”. The goal is therefore to treat the asthmatic episode early and aggressively; you never want to hear audible wheezing.

An asthmatic cough is often short, frequent, non productive and occurs throughout the day and often all night long. I love to walk into a room and hear a child with a productive, “phlegmy” cough, as these children are typically not wheezers but are good coughers! It is that dry little recurrent pesky cough that occurs incessantly that is often the hallmark of a child who is wheezing.

In severe cases of wheezing and bronchospasm the child will also show signs of respiratory distress, where their chest may show retractions (pulling in between ribs) or using their abdominal muscles to help them breath. These children look uncomfortable and are usually not running around the exam room as they are having a hard time getting air exchanged.

Some other children may not be in any respiratory distress but when listened to with the stethoscope you can hear the high pitched noise on expiration and sometimes on inspiration as well. You just have to get used to listening. Practice, practice and then a parent with a stethoscope gets better at understanding asthma.

When a child is actively wheezing it is time to start medications to relieve their symptoms. More on treatment coming.  Stay tuned.

Your Baby

High-Sugar Intake During Mom’s Pregnancy May Double Child’s Risk of Asthma

2:00

It’s no secret that moms-to-be often develop a sweet tooth during pregnancy, but new information suggests high-sugar foods and drinks may double their child’s risk for developing asthma and allergies later in life.

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London used data gathered from nearly 9,000 mother-child pairs in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, an ongoing research project that tracks the health of families with children born between April 1, 1991, and December 31, 1992.

During the study, the participating pregnant women were asked about their weekly intake of certain foods and specific food items including sugar, coffee and tea. Their responses were used to calculate their intake of added sugar.

The researchers only saw weak evidence to suggest a link between women’s added sugar intake and their children’s chances of developing asthma overall. But when they looked specifically at allergic asthma—in which an asthma diagnosis is accompanied by a positive skin test for allergens—the link was much stronger. Children whose moms were in the top fifth for added sugar during pregnancy were twice as likely to have allergic asthma when compared to children whose moms were in the bottom fifth.

Children of mothers with the high-sugar diets were 38% more likely to test positive for an allergen and 73% more likely to test positive for more than one allergen, compared to those kids whose moms stayed away from added sugar.

"The dramatic 'epidemic' of asthma and allergies in the West in the last 50 years is still largely unexplained -- one potential culprit is a change in diet," said Annabelle Bedard, lead author and a postdoctoral fellow at Queen Mary's Centre for Primary Care and Public Health Blizard Institute. "Intake of free sugar and high fructose corn syrup has increased substantially over this period."

As with most studies, a cause and effect was not established, only an association. The study’s authors believe that the association is strong enough to warrant further investigation.

Lead researcher Professor Seif Shaheen  said: "We cannot say on the basis of these observations that a high intake of sugar by mothers in pregnancy is definitely causing allergy and allergic asthma in their offspring.

"However, given the extremely high consumption of sugar in the West, we will certainly be investigating this hypothesis further with some urgency.”

There are many health reasons why pregnant women should limit their intake of high-calorie and sugary foods and drinks. This research suggests that it may be prudent for the health of their unborn child as well.

Story sources: Susan Scutti, http://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/05/health/sugar-pregnancy-child-allergy-asthma-study/index.html

 Henry Bodkin, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/07/06/high-sugar-intake-pregnancy-linked-double-risk-child-asthma/

Daily Dose

Wheezing Season Is Here

We are having our first really cool night of the fall season and boy is it wheezing season here. This is the time of year that many young kids will get their first colds and some will also start to wheeze. Weather changes also seem to provoke wheezing episodes, especially if you have had a child who has previously wheezed during a cold. So, we have all of the right conditions for another wheezing season.

Wheezing runs in families, so if parents wheezed their children may be more likely to wheeze too. Many parents don't even realize they wheezed until they probe their own history, as they may have outgrown their wheezing. The genetics of wheezing is not totally understood, but just like allergies, wheezing is on the rise. If your child seems to have a tight, persistent cough, a frequent night time cough, or coughs with exercise you should discuss these symptoms with your doctor. Some children will only have a persistent cough as their presentation, but with enough history you can figure out that their cough is due to cough variant asthma, and all of the cough medicines in the world are not going to stop that nighttime cough (remember don't be giving young children over the counter cough medicines). Much of the diagnosis is made through a good history and physical exam and appropriate medication will stop that recurrent cough. If your child has already been diagnosed with asthma or reactive airways disease, make sure you have your inhalers refilled and current. Wheezing season is here and won't go away quickly so be ready. Some children will need to be on preventative medicines too. That's another topic for discussion with your doctor. Enjoy the weather changes, it feels great outside! That's your daily dose, we'll chat tomorrow.

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