Prather Pediatric and Allergy Center - Ask Doctor Brent

Printer Friendly Version

Title: Rising Asthma Mortality - What Can We Do About It

Category: Asthma and Allergy


In the 1970's, asthma deaths declined by almost 8% in children. In the 1980's, asthma deaths increased by almost 7% particularly in the young age group and particularly in inner cities in certain sections of the country such as New York and Chicago. Besides the marked increase in the United States, studies done around the world are showing the same rising death rate in children from asthma. There are several theories as to why this is occurring. Nobody is exactly sure, but the major theories include:

1. Increasing dust mite in homes because of the airtight way we build homes today.

2. Difficulty with access to care among the poor in all areas of the world and not receiving regular care or acute care for emergencies.

3. Worldwide weather and pollen changes and even global warming.

All of these may very well be factors in the increasing mortality and we can do several things to try to reverse these alarming trends.

The first thing that should be done with any child diagnosed with asthma is to begin to understand the disease well. By understanding the trigger factors which cause it and exactly what is happening when it occurs, one can better prepare a plan to control it and not let it control you. I strongly recommend asthma support groups for parents of children with asthma. Daily peak flow monitoring has been shown in numerous studies to increase a child's feeling of control over his asthma. It also alerts him to an increase in his asthma before he even feels it. Best of all it increases his compliance with medicines. In other words, he takes the medicines his doctor wants him to take regularly and properly because he wants to maintain good peak flows which he is recording on a graph daily. Peak flow meters can be obtained for about $20 through your doctor or drug store.

Another important goal which parents of all asthmatic children should strive for is to have a written plan of treatment for day to day asthma control and for emergency treatment of asthma. This should be stuck on the refrigerator, carried in the glove compartment of the car, and posted in the child's school so that things never get out of control. This way you will know exactly, step by step, what to take, who to call and what to do each step of the way. A dangerous, life threatening situation will be much less likely to ever occur.

In summary, we are seeing a trend in asthma deaths which may be partly out of our control if it is related to global warming, climate changes and pollen counts. We can, however, with better medicines and better understanding, effectively and actively combat this trend. We certainly have the intelligence and ability to do so. If you know any child who's asthma is out of control and who is not getting access to care, please try to route them to a doctor who will follow closely and work with their family to tailor their care as needed for good control. In today's world, all asthmatic children can lead a full life and should. Some organizations which can be helpful in giving the emotional support as well as knowledge for good asthma control include:


* Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (Lafayette Chapter), (318) 893-3722;


* The Mothers of Asthmatics, (703) 385-4404.