Thursday, July 11, 2013

Asthma: Let Your Child Do the Talking

When you visit the doctor with your child, do you talk to the doctor or nurse, or does your child? How you communicate with the doctor may make a difference in your child's care, said researchers in an article published in the July 2013 issue of the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

As parents, we want to be sure that the healthcare professionals get all the information that we feel is important. But in this study - which looked at children who have asthma - researchers picked up on information that only the child can present and the difference that it could make in their care.

"Our research shows that physicians should ask parents and children about the effects asthma is having on the child's daily life," said lead study author Margaret Burks, MD, in a press release. "Parents can often think symptoms are better or worse than what the child is really experiencing, especially if they are not with their children all day."

Researchers enrolled 79 children who were between five and 17 years old into their study. Fifty-three of the children had acute asthma and 26 had refractory asthma. The researchers asked the children to fill out the Pediatric Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire and their caregivers completed the Pediatric Asthma Caregiver’s Quality of Life Questionnaire.

When comparing the questionnaire responses, the researchers found that while the scores between the two – the children and the caregivers – were similar, the children reported a better activity-related quality of life than did their caregivers. There was also a greater difference between how boys responded compared with their caregivers.

Taking this information, the researchers concluded that while the caregivers are important and can provide useful information to the healthcare professionals, it’s important to ask the children directly too, to see how they view their illness and its impact on their quality of life.

The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology has put together a list that it feels are the five most important topics that children with asthma should discuss with their allergist:

1. Asthma prevents me from playing sports and taking part in other activities -- If your child cannot play sports or participate in gym class and recess activities, it's important they tell their allergist. This can be an indication their asthma isn't properly controlled. If they can participate in activities, it is also important they tell their allergist, to show their condition is being well managed.
2. When I am outside or at home my asthma symptoms become worse -- An estimated 60 to 80 percent of children with asthma also have an allergy. If nearly inescapable allergens, such as pollen, mold, dust and pet dander are triggering your child's asthma symptoms, an allergist may include immunotherapy (allergy shots) as part of a treatment plan.
3. I often feel sad or different from other kids because I have asthma -- Nearly half of children with asthma report feeling depressed or left out of activities due to their condition. Anyone with asthma should be able to feel good and be active. No one should accept less.
4. There have been times I have missed school because of my condition -- Asthma is the most common chronic illness in childhood and is a leading caused in missed school days. Research shows children under the care of a board-certified allergist see a 77 percent reduction in lost time from school.
5. My asthma disappeared -- It is important your child carry and use their inhaler as prescribed, even if symptoms aren't bothersome. While asthma symptoms are controllable with the proper treatment, there isn't a cure for asthma and it likely won't disappear. An asthma attack can strike at any time.


Jennifer Fink said...

Very interesting stuff. I'd also be interested in further research that compares kids' self-reports with observations of the children's status throughout the days. Are the children accurately reporting their symptoms? Or are they saying what they think they should say? Are boys less likely to report severe symptoms b/c they don't think it's manly to do so?

I definitely think that it's imperative to talk to both the kids and the caregivers. I'm just interested in learning more.

Marijke Vroomen-Durning said...

Good questions Jenny. I also think that this goes beyond asthma. When my children were young, I encouraged them to answer the doctor's questions rather than always me.

Of course, when we began our frequent emergency room runs, I more than encouraged their speaking out. I wanted the doctors to hear from them why, yet again, we were getting stitches, casts...