Links Between Childhood Asthma and Obesity
Asthma is a chronic disease that causes airways to become inflamed. Does your child have this disease? If so, you're no doubt familiar with symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and trouble breathing. Today, a whopping nine million children under age 18 have asthma – or have had it in the past.1
But with rates of childhood obesity climbing faster than a ten-year-old scrambling up a tree, this number could quickly skyrocket. Why? Because children who are overweight or obese are more likely to have asthma than children of a healthy weight. The strength of this link varies by race and ethnicity. It hurts Hispanic children the most.2
Extra weight isn't considered a cause of asthma, simply a contributor. But what, then, accounts for the connection between the two ? One theory is that a hormone found in fat tissue increases the body's chronic inflammation. And this may increase the risk of asthma. 3,4
Overweight or obese children have double the risk of asthma as their normal-weight peers if they become or remain heavy in their early school years. But, parents, listen up. Here's the good news: If children slim down by age seven, they may wipe out that increased risk. It's not quite as easy as erasing a string of numbers from a blackboard. But it's way more powerful. That's especially true given that childhood obesity is not only linked to asthma, but to a whole host of other health problems, including diabetes and high cholesterol.4
Extra weight also sends kids with asthma to the doctor and emergency room more often and requires higher doses of asthma medications.2 In fact, a recent small study found that overweight and obese children needed about twice as much of a commonly used asthma medication (an inhaled corticosteroid) as healthy-weight kids. These findings are similar to those reported on earlier in adults. The response to the medication decreased as weight and body mass index (BMI) rose, according to study researcher Pia Hauk, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at National Jewish Health in Denver, CO.3
If your child has asthma, don't forget that I'm here to help you and your child manage this condition as well as you can. Remember that your child's asthma management plan may be different than another child's. I can help guide you in understanding how and when to use asthma medications. Getting the right care by a knowledgeable allergist is also key. This is someone who has special training and experience in figuring out whether a child has asthma, what is triggering it, and how to move forward to treat it effectively. Together, we can form an awesome team!5
1. MedlinePlus: "Asthma in Children." Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/asthmainchildren.html. Accessed March 5, 2012.
2. MedlinePlus: "Obesity Linked to Asthma in Children." Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_122445.html. Accessed March 5, 2012.
3. MedlinePlus: "Heavy Kids May Not Respond as Well to Asthma Meds." Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_122575.html. Accessed March 5, 2012.
4. MedlinePlus: "Overweight 7-Year-Olds Face Higher Risk of Asthma." Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_120071.html. Accessed March 5, 2012.
5. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology: "Childhood Asthma: Tips to Remember." http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/at-a-glance/childhood-asthma.aspx