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Halloween Can Be Frightful for Kids With Allergies, Asthma

SATURDAY, Oct. 26, 2019 — Allergies and asthma can turn Halloween into fright night, so parents must be vigilant.

Some fun-sized candy bars have no labels to alert about possible food allergens, such as peanuts, said Dr. Todd Mahr, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

But food allergens aren’t the only potential concerns.

“Halloween happens in the fall, so trick or treating involves being aware of fall allergies,” Mahr said in a college news release.

Ragweed and other types of pollen can trigger fall allergies. Keep pollen out of your house by leaving shoes at the door, and having children shower, wash hair and change clothes after they’ve been outdoors. Kids who take allergy meds should continue their medications for two weeks after the first frost, Mahr advised.

A sudden change in weather can trigger an asthma attack. If it’s cold on Halloween, consider an extra layer under or over the costume for children with asthma.

Dry, windy weather is bad for people with allergies, because the wind spreads pollen and mold. Monitor pollen forecasts to see if there will be high levels of pollen in the air on Halloween. If so, consider taking allergy medications.

Be cautious about haunted houses if your child has asthma. Fear and other intense emotions can disrupt normal breathing patterns, which can trigger asthma.

Many haunted houses also have smoke machines, and smoke of any kind is dangerous for those with asthma. If you do go to a haunted house, bring inhalers, Mahr recommended.

Better yet, instead of going to a haunted house, consider hosting your own Halloween party.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on allergies and asthma.

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Posted: October 2019

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A Parent’s Guide to Managing Kids’ Asthma During the Fall

SATURDAY, Oct. 12, 2019 — Fall can be a challenging time of the year for kids with asthma, an expert says.

“Although asthma can flare up for a number of reasons, a lot of people with allergies also have asthma, and asthma can be triggered by allergies. So the fall is a tough time for asthmatic sufferers,” said Dr. Gaurav Kumar, a pediatrician at LifeBridge Health in Baltimore.

While many kids do well with their asthma during the summer, problems often accompany the return to school.

“You go from taking these outdoor summer vacations to now being in a classroom again,” Kumar explained. “So now you’re in contact with people in closed spaces. And of course, what happens is germs are more likely to spread that way. So you could get colds from friends who have colds, and then that becomes a trigger for asthma.”

Parents need to make sure their child’s asthma is under control. If a child stopped taking preventive asthma medications regularly during the summer, they should resume daily use now, Kumar advised.

Children with asthma should have checkups at least once a year, and in some cases as often as three or four times a year.

“An asthma checkup is an opportunity for us to reassess how the year has gone and to make plans in anticipation of what might happen,” Kumar said in a LifeBridge Health news release.

A flu shot is also important, because kids with asthma are at high risk for serious flu-related complications. Asthma is the most common medical condition among children hospitalized with the flu.

Flu vaccine is “very safe” in children with asthma and “will not cause any negative effects to trigger asthma attacks,” Kumar said.

More information

The American Lung Association offers advice for parents of children with asthma.

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Posted: October 2019

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For Kids With Asthma, Allergies, New School Year Can Bring Flare-Ups

SUNDAY, Aug. 4, 2019 — As kids head back to school, it’s important for parents to keep potential asthma and allergy challenges in mind.

“In the fall, allergists see an increase in kids’ visits for allergies and asthma because of a combination of factors,” said Dr. Todd Mahr, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “And hospitals see what’s known as the ‘September Spike’ because kids who have been off asthma controller medications for the summer start experiencing flare-ups in the fall.”

As a new school year begins, kids are exposed to allergens in the classroom, on playing fields and in the cafeteria that many probably haven’t run into all summer, he said in an ACAAI news release. On top of that, it’s ragweed season — a terrible time of year for kids who are allergic.

Mahr suggests parents meet with their child’s allergist this month to create an allergy action plan.

Parents should also try to identify potential asthma and allergy triggers that their children may encounter at school. These may include chemical compounds from new carpeting, pollen drifting into classrooms through open windows, or mold in bathrooms.

Parents should discuss potential triggers with teachers and school administrators to help ease symptoms.

Children with asthma or allergies should still be able to play any sport as long as they follow their allergist’s advice, according to the ACAAI.

While physical activity can cause airways to constrict, if your child’s asthma is under control, he or she should be able to participate. Make sure coaches and physical education teachers know what to do if a problem arises.

If your child has a food allergy, make sure the school is fully informed. Work with your allergist and school staff to develop an action plan that lists foods your child is allergic to, treatment procedures and emergency contact information, the ACAAI advised.

Be sure your child understands what to do if he or she suffers an allergy or asthma emergency at school. They should carry and know how to use asthma and anaphylaxis medications, and school staff also should know how to administer them.

More information

The American Lung Association has more advice for parents of children with asthma.

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Posted: August 2019

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Cell Mapping Provides New Insights About Asthma

THURSDAY, June 20, 2019 — In an effort to improve the lives of millions of people with asthma, researchers say they’ve completed the first mapping of lung and airway cells, which may lead to new therapies for the common lung condition.

The mapping reveals differences between airways in people with and without asthma, and in how lung cells communicate with one another, the study authors said.

Understanding the cells and their signals could help efforts to find new drug targets to treat asthma, according to the report.

The investigators also discovered a new cell state that produces mucus in asthma patients.

For the study, the team analyzed more than 36,000 cells from the nasal area and from three areas of the lung from 17 people without asthma. This revealed which genes were active in each cell and identified specific cell types.

The researchers then analyzed cells from six asthma patients. That analysis uncovered distinct differences in the cells and how they communicate with one another, compared to people without asthma.

“We have generated a detailed anatomical map of the respiratory airways, producing the first draft human lung cell atlas from both normal and asthmatic people,” said study co-author Felipe Vieira Braga of Wellcome Sanger Institute, in Hinxton, England.

“This has given us a better definition of the cell types in asthmatic lungs, and allowed us to discover an entirely new cell state in asthmatic patients that produces mucus,” Braga explained in an institute news release.

Study co-author Martijn Nawijn, of University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands, added that, normally, all kinds of cells communicate with each other to keep the airways functioning well.

“But in asthma patients, almost all of those interactions are lost,” Nawijn said. “Instead of a network of interactions, in asthma the inflammatory cells seem to completely dominate the communication in the airways.”

A better understanding of the types of cells in the lungs of asthma patients, and how those cells communicate, could lead to new drugs to prevent cells from responding to inflammatory signals.

The researchers also found that cells in different areas of the lung have very different activities. That could also aid efforts to develop new asthma drugs.

Asthma, which affected more than 350 million people worldwide in 2015, is caused by swelling of the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs, making it difficult to get enough oxygen.

The study was published June 17 in the journal Nature Medicine.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on asthma.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: June 2019

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Almost Half of Young Asthma Patients Misuse Inhalers

FRIDAY, April 19, 2019 — Many children with asthma don’t use their inhalers properly and don’t get a full dose of medicine, researchers report.

They evaluated inhaler use among 113 children between the ages of 2 and 16 who were hospitalized for asthma. Such patients are at highest risk for complications and death from asthma.

At least one crucial step in inhaler technique was missed by 42% of the children. About 18% did not use a spacer device with their inhaler. A spacer is a device that’s recommended for use with an inhaler to help the right amount of asthma medication reach the lungs.

Teens were the most likely to make mistakes in inhaler technique and to skip use of a spacer, according to the study published April 17 in the Journal of Hospital Medicine.

“We know that asthma can be well-managed in the majority of patients and using your inhaler correctly is key factor to managing asthma,” said lead author Dr. Waheeda Samady, a hospitalist at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

“Improper inhaler technique can contribute to children having uncontrolled asthma and needing to come to the hospital for their asthma,” Samady said in a hospital news release.

“Our study suggests that as health care providers we can do a better job showing patients and families the correct inhaler and spacer technique, and checking it frequently to ensure they master it,” she added.

“We see that our adolescent patients, who are transitioning to independent medication management, still need close monitoring to make sure they use their inhaler and spacer appropriately to achieve optimal asthma control,” Samady said.

She pointed out that teens may feel that using a spacer is only for younger children, but “using a spacer is recommended for adults as well,” Samady explained.

Previous research shows that adding a spacer to an inhaler boosts the amount of asthma medication a person takes in from 34% to 83%.

“Children with asthma can lead full lives if they receive the right medication at the appropriate dose, which is why correct inhaler technique is so crucial,” Samady concluded.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on asthma inhalers.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: April 2019

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Generic for Popular Asthma Inhaler Gets FDA OK

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Jan. 31, 2019 (HealthDay News) — The first generic version of the widely used Advair Diskus inhaler for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has won U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.

This approval “is part of our longstanding commitment to advance access to lower cost, high-quality generic alternatives,” said Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

“People living with asthma and COPD know too well the critical importance of having access to the treatment they need to feel better. Today’s approval will bring more competition to the market, which will ultimately benefit the patients who rely on this drug,” Woodcock said Wednesday in an agency news release.

The new inhaler, from drug maker Mylan, contains fluticasone propionate and salmeterol inhalation powder. It’s approved for twice-daily treatment of asthma in patients aged 4 years and older. In COPD cases, it’s approved for maintenance treatment of airflow obstruction and reducing exacerbations.

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. More than 26 million people in the United States are known to have it, including about 7 million children, the FDA noted.

COPD is a progressive lung disease that affects breathing and often worsens over time. Symptoms can include coughing that produces large amounts of mucus, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.

The inhaler comes in three strengths: fluticasone propionate 100 mcg/salmeterol 50 mcg; fluticasone propionate 250 mcg/salmeterol 50 mcg; and fluticasone propionate 500 mcg/salmeterol 50 mcg.

In asthma patients, the most common side effects of this combination treatment are: upper-respiratory tract infection or inflammation; swelling in the back of the throat; hoarse voice or trouble speaking; oral thrush, also called candidiasis; bronchitis; cough; headaches; nausea and vomiting.

In COPD patients, the most common side effects are: pneumonia; oral candidiasis; throat irritation; hoarse voice or trouble speaking; viral respiratory infections; headaches; and musculoskeletal pain.

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Sources

SOURCE: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, news release, Jan. 30, 2019

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Don’t Let Holiday Season Stress Worsen Your Allergies, Asthma