HEALTH

Childhood Asthma Rates on the Decline

By Lauren Wanko
Correspondent

Eleven-year-old Isabella Sofield is taking a lung function test. The Manchester resident was diagnosed with asthma about five years ago.

“It’s hard to just go to gym and run around or outside,” she said.

Isabella’s one of 167,897 children in the state who suffer from asthma. According to the CDC, nationwide 6.3 million kids have the condition.

A new study in Pediatrics indicates current asthma rates ceased to increase among children in recent years. Study author Dr. Lara Akinbami says childhood asthma prevalence doubled between 1980 and 1995.

“Then slower increases from the decade in 2000 until we reached that peak in 2009,” Dr. Akinbami said.

“Asthma diagnoses may have increased also with new guidelines that came out in 2007 that may have brought asthma to the forefront and more diagnoses were made shortly thereafter,” said Dr. Nader Nakhleh a pediatric pulmonologist at K Hovnanian Children’s Hospital.

The 2009 peak was followed by a plateau and then a decline in 2013, although asthma rates increased in certain groups, including children living in poverty, says Dr. Akinbami.

“We look at a sample of the U.S. population and in 2013 that number dropped to 8.3 percent from its peak in 2009 at 9.6 percent. The 2013 number, which is 8.3, seems a lot lower than the peak of 9.6 but given again that there’s some uncertainty because it’s a sample, the numbers can bounce around a little bit. So we really think this is really showing the beginning of a flattening of a trend, rather than a decreasing trend,” she said.

Dr.  Nakhleh treats newborns to 21-year-olds with asthma.

“Locally speaking what we see in our office from day to day, I can’t sit here and say to you that asthma rates have declined because I think they have not,” he said.

Asthma is a chronic condition that can occur at any age and may last a lifetime, says the doctor.

“It’s caused by two major things that go on in a child’s lungs, bronchial spasms where the airway twitches that’s what you see the tip of the iceberg,” Dr. Nakhleh said.

That often causes coughing, wheezing and shortness of breathe.

“What’s going on under the water, the iceberg part under water is the inflammation that occurs inside the air way walls,” he said.

Dr. Nakhleh says some of the factors contributing to an asthma diagnosis include childhood obesity, a predisposition to allergies, being born premature or having a strong family history.

What are some of the reasons why current asthma rates ceased to increase among children in recent years? Dr. Nakhleh suspects asthma may be managed better overall with medications, along with childhood obesity. He says premature babies are leaving the hospital with fewer problems too. Isabella takes medication daily to manage her asthma.

“She’s been dealing with it very good. She’s a trooper. She doesn’t complain too much about it,” said stepmom Diane Sofield.

The doctor made a small adjustment to her medicine. She’s not scheduled for another visit until the summer.

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