Lingering Lung Inflammation After Outgrowing Asthma

Some kids with asthma will outgrow it by the time they reach their teens.

HEALTH No parent wants to see her child suffer, particularly when that child is seemingly gasping for his last breath. Indeed, an asthma attack can be distressing to both patient and caregiver.

As the leading cause of chronic illness in children, asthma affects as many as 10% to 12% of children in the United States and is the leading cause of chronic illness in children. While asthma symptoms can begin at any age, most children have their first asthma symptoms by age 5. [1] Though adult-onset asthma is typically a chronic condition, many children appear to outgrow it during puberty.

Asthma is characterized by inflammation of the bronchial tubes with increased production of sticky secretions inside the tubes. Patients might describe a sensation of pressure, squeezing, or burning in the lungs perhaps accompanied by anxiety. Not all children with asthma wheeze. Chronic coughing with asthma may be the only obvious sign, and a child's asthma may go unrecognized if the cough is attributed to recurrent bronchitis. [1]

Death from asthma is a relatively uncommon event (1200 annually). Most asthma deaths are preventable. It is very rare for a person who is receiving proper treatment to die of asthma.

Asthma Triggers

An asthmatic child is not generally physically active because exercise can trigger an attack. Allergens, animal dander, dust mites, cockroaches, pollen, mold, cigarette smoke, smog, strong odors from painting or scented products can also cause an asthma attack. Though most incidents can be treated at home with prescribed quick-relief medication, some asthma attacks require emergency care. A common cold can lead to an emergency room visit. [2]

With so many triggers, it is easy to see why former sufferers rejoice when they are liberated from an albuterol inhaler. Some who "outgrow" asthma may still retain some reactions to certain triggers. Though lung capacity is obviously diminished during an acute asthma attack, such respiratory ailments can alter the development of lungs, reducing their capacity. [3]

Nuts! I Thought I Outgrew It

Dr. Michael Shields of Queen's University of Belfast assessed the airways of about 100 Brittsh children younger than 16, all with peanut allergy. For each child, the researchers measured the level of exhaled nitric oxide, a marker for inflammation. Seventy-five percent of children who seemingly outgrew their asthma showed high levels of nitric oxide. Based on these findings, using an inhaler could prove lifesaving even after prominent asthma symptoms have disappeared. [4]

For nine years, Ronina Covar, MD, of National Jewish Medical and Research Center, Denver, and colleagues followed 900 children with mild to moderate asthma. Only 6% of the children fully "outgrew" their asthma. This means they had no asthma symptoms for at least one full year. On the bright side, an additional 39% of the children had improvement in their asthma; these only sometimes had asthma symptoms. [5]

Many treatment options exist to help asthma sufferers remain productive. In addition to avoiding triggers, asthma medications may include corticosteroids, anti-inflammatory drugs, brochodilators like Theophyline, Leukotriene modifiers, and Xolair. —MedicineNet

It appears most asthma patients can lead a moderately normal life by avoiding triggers and taking required medication. Those who outgrow the most obvious symptoms may still carry lingering scars — occasional subtle wheezing, chronic raspy cough, shortness of breath during exercise, or even dermatitis. From 50 to 80 percent of patients with atopic dermatitis have or develop asthma or allergic rhinitis. [6] These discomforts are likely a welcome tradeoff when coupled with the ability to breath easier.

Tags: allergists, breathing, food allergy, kids, nebulizers, pulmonologists, respiratory

References
  1. Asthma Symptoms WebMD.com
  2. Understanding Asthma. Wolters Kluwer | LWW poster at ClinicalPosters.com
  3. Early Asthma Treatment Key to Healthy Lung Development. CureAutoimmunity.org
  4. Toss out the inhaler if you outgrow asthma? Not so fast. Reuters.com
  5. Will Your Child Outgrow Asthma?. WebMD.com
  6. Atopic Dermatitis: A Review of Diagnosis and Treatment. American Family Physician