The Benefits of Standardized Asthma Care
Asthma is a common childhood condition. Some estimates are that around 10% of all children have it. The incidence has been steadily increasing for many years, but some recent data suggest the burden of the disease in children may have leveled off over the past couple of years. That’s encouraging, but the number of children with asthma is still huge. The best way to think of asthma is that of an exaggerated reaction of the small airways in the lungs to common irritants, making them constrict and reduce airflow. These include viral infections, environmental triggers, and poorly understood things intrinsic to the individual. There is a strong familial tendency to developing asthma. Additionally, some things predispose to it, including sedentary lifestyle and obesity.
A big push in pediatric practice over the past decade or so has been to try to keep kids with asthma out of the hospital. This can be accomplished by a good asthma care plan for the family to use when a child’s symptoms get worse. Another key component is a team approach to managing this chronic disease. Asthma is the most common preventable reason for a child to be admitted to the hospital. A recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics shows how effective these care plans can be.
The investigators looked at 3,510 children with asthma treated over the years at Primary Children’s Hospital in Utah. The notion was to see if increased compliance with asthma control measures by the family would reduce the number of hospital admissions. That turned out to be the case, significantly so. Interestingly, one of the biggest problems for the research project was to get physicians to accept and go along with the best current evidence-based information about how to manage asthma. I’m actually not surprised by this. Asthma management has changed over the years and current best practice is not what I was taught years ago. Things change, but many physicians don’t.
The key for any parent who has a child with asthma is to have a clear understanding of exactly what to do if your child has worse breathing problems. Many visits to the hospital could be headed off if all parents had such a plan, as well as a resource person to call if the plan is not working.