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Overweight Asthmatic Children Risk Overusing Medication

Update Date: Oct 25, 2014 11:49 AM EDT

The ability to detect symptoms correctly and treat them subsequently is vital, especially for people diagnosed with chronic health conditions. In a new study researchers examined how accurate overweight/obese children with asthma were in using their medications in times of need. The team found that this group of children tended to mistake breathlessness for loss of asthma control, increasing their risk of overusing medications.

"Obese children with asthma need to develop a greater understanding of the distinct feeling of breathlessness in order to avoid not just unnecessary medication use, but also the anxiety, reduced quality of life and health care utilization that come along with this misunderstood symptom," said Jason Lang, MD, MPH, a physician and researcher in the Division of Pulmonary Medicine at Nemours Children's Hospital in Orlando, FL. "Alleviating this overuse of rescue medications could likely also lessen other symptoms obese children with asthma are impacted by, including most notably acid reflux."

For this study, the researchers analyzed the lung function, medication use, symptom patterns, healthcare use, life quality and perception of life quality reported by caregivers in 58 lean and overweight/obese children. The children participated in three clinical visits.

Overall, the children had similar lung functions regardless of their weight. Obese children, however, were more likely than their lean counterparts to report experiencing shortness of breath as opposed to a cough. The obese kids were also three times more likely to self-medicate with short-acting Beta-agonist (SABA) medications, report lower levels of life quality associated with asthma and more gastrointestinal symptoms measured via a GERD score.

"This research helps define how overweight and obesity affect the patterns and severity of asthma symptoms in children," said Lang reported in the press release. "We hope to use this information to improve self-management and health care utilization for this critical patient population."

The study was published in the American Association of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology's scientific journal, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI).

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