Monday, April 22, 2013

Kids asthma: Tips for an asthma-healthy home

Girl with inhaler

Eliminate Kids' Asthma Triggers At Home

More than 24 million Americans suffer from asthma, and 7 million of them are our kids. With school back in session, your kids are spending more time in enclosed spaces with other kids and are exposed to a wide range of germs and possible asthma triggers. We talked with Dr. Reynold Panettieri Jr., an asthma specialist at the University of Pennsylvania, about the dangers of asthma for kids and how we parents can help them manage the condition.

Asthma can be fatal

SheKnows: What exactly is asthma, and can it be life-threatening?

Dr. Panettieri: Asthma is a clinical disease characterized by increased sensitivity to allergens and environmental triggers that cause the airways in the lungs to become blocked or narrowed, resulting in the commonly known symptoms including shortness of breath, chest tightness and cough. The symptoms often subside either spontaneously or as the result of therapy. If asthma symptoms persist and worsen in severity to the point that airflow in and out of the airways becomes completely blocked, then patients may experience a life-threatening asthma flare-up or attack. Fortunately, asthma mortality has declined in the past 10 years, but one patient with asthma dies every 30 minutes in the United States.

Asthma is on the rise

SheKnows: Is there a rise in asthma cases in the United States?

Dr. Panettieri: In the United States and globally, the prevalence of asthma is increasing. The precise reasons for the increase in asthma cases remain unclear. Interestingly, air pollution in industrial countries has improved over the past 20 years; however, asthma prevalence continues to climb. Experts believe that the increases in asthma prevalence may relate to more virulent viruses, indoor air pollution or potentially to decreased vitamin D exposure. Although these remain hypotheses, the cause for increases in asthma prevalence is likely multifactorial.

Asthma is not preventable

SheKnows: What can parents do to help prevent their children from developing asthma?

Dr. Panettieri: Since asthma is a hereditary disease, there is little that parents can do to prevent their child from having asthma. The precise genes that induce asthma remain unknown, and to date, there is no vaccine that will prevent children from getting the disease. Importantly, parents can be vigilant in looking for common symptoms, which include chest tightness, cough and wheeze. If their child is experiencing these types of symptoms frequently, parents should visit their child's physician. If their child is diagnosed with asthma, parents should work with their child's doctor to develop an asthma action plan, which is critically important to preventing asthma from progressing.

Know your asthma triggers

SheKnows: What are some common asthma triggers?

Dr. Panettieri: Each patient responds to asthma triggers in a unique manner. Some triggers such as cold air and pollens are seasonal in nature, causing the symptoms of asthma during the peak seasons of spring and fall. Viral infections are another common trigger, occurring more in the winter.
Recent evidence suggests that homes may harbor considerable indoor allergens and irritants that can worsen asthma symptoms. Such triggers include volatile organic compounds (VOCs) typically found in paint, lacquers and varnishes. Others include dander from cats, dogs and other furry animals.

Tips for an asthma-healthy home

SheKnows: How can parents keep an asthma-healthy home?

Dr. Panettieri: Importantly, parents can try to minimize asthma triggers and maintain an asthma-healthy home by following some simple tips. For example:
  • Choose hard-surface flooring instead of carpet and hanging blinds in lieu of drapes to provide ease in cleaning and decrease the absorption of dust mites and pollens.
  • Select paints, varnishes and cleaning products with the lowest VOC levels to minimize the impact the fumes can have on asthma.
  • Frequent vacuuming and regularly changing heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) filters may also help minimize asthma triggers within the home.
  • Hypo-allergenic stuffed toys that can withstand frequent washing can also reduce exposure to asthma triggers.
For more asthma-healthy home tips, visit Build Smart, Breathe Easier is a national asthma education program sponsored by Merck and conducted in partnership with Habitat for Humanity and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. In addition to building four asthma-healthy houses across the country with Habitat for Humanity, the program is designed to help educate about the importance of maintaining an asthma-healthy home and ways to help manage the disease.

Help your kids manage their asthma

SheKnows: What are your tips for managing asthma in kids?

Dr. Panettieri: The recognition of asthma symptoms and prompt intervention with current medicines to treat asthma are the best ways to manage the disease in children. Following healthcare providers' recommendations to reduce exposure to triggers, such as those previously mentioned, and frequent follow-up with a healthcare provider is critical in helping to improve the quality of life of patients. Importantly, all children should exercise, and although exercise can trigger asthma symptoms, optimally managed asthma will not impede exercise.

Asthma resources

SheKnows: What are some resources for parents for more information?

Dr. Panettieri: There are many websites that can give more information about asthma.

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About Asthma

Asthma is a lung condition that causes difficulty breathing, and it's common among kids and teens. Symptoms include coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Anyone can have asthma, even infants, and the tendency to develop the condition is often inherited.
Asthma affects the bronchial tubes, or airways. When someone breathes normally, air is taken in through the nose or mouth and then goes into the trachea (windpipe), passing through the bronchial tubes, into the lungs, and finally back out again.
But people with asthma have inflamed airways that produce lots of thick mucus. They're also overly sensitive, or hyperreactive, to certain things, like exercise, dust, or cigarette smoke. This hyperreactivity causes the smooth muscle that surrounds the airways to tighten up. The combination of airway inflammation and muscle tightening narrows the airways and makes it difficult for air to move through.

What Happens During an Asthma Flare-Up?
More than 23 million people have asthma in the United States. In fact, it's the No. 1 reason kids chronically miss school. And flare-ups are the most common cause of pediatric emergency room visits due to a chronic illness.

Some kids have only mild, occasional symptoms or only show symptoms after exercising. Others have severe asthma that, left untreated, can dramatically limit how active they are and cause changes in lung function.
But thanks to new medications and treatment strategies, kids with asthma no longer need to sit on the sidelines, and parents no longer need to worry constantly about their child's well being.
With patient education and the right asthma management plan, families can learn to control symptoms and asthma flare-ups more independently, allowing kids to do just about anything they want.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Picky Eaters Tips

Patience and persistence are the tools for parents of a picky eater. Your tenacity to
make nutrition a priority will pay off in the long run as your child grows and
begins to form food associations, preferences and priorities. Your guidance
and role modeling will be a positive and formidable influence. (but you can’t see it rightnow, so hang in there and don’t give up.)

* Don’t despair. That leads to frustration and stress at meal times. That doesn’t help you or the child. Be patient there is no magic solutions because kids, like us adults, have different personalities, tolerance levels, patience, moods etc. So in other words, what works for one child may not work for another.

*Introduce one new food at a time. Introduce it with another food they enjoy.
* Don’t make your child clean their plate. Forget that old fashioned way of thinking. We now
know that kids, especially under five, have a good sense of their hunger. They will stop eating when they are full. The portion size they were given may be too much for them.

* Avoid bribing please! ie “If you eat your vegetables, you can have dessert later.” Think about the message that will send to your child. Dessert- reward, fun, happy, success.
Vegetables, not fun, requires a condition in order to eat them, Multiple studies have shown that bribing kids doesn’t promote good healthy food preferences in the long run.

* Just try to offer them one bite of the healthy food they don’t want to eat. If your child refuses, don’t give up or get mad. It just means they won’t try it today but that does not mean
forever. Keep bringing that vegetable back to mealtime every several days or so.

* Take advantage of other activities to expose your child to healthy foods outside of mealtime. Have them help you pick out the vegetables and fruits at the grocery store, or better yet, at the farmers market, Maybe the farmer will tell your child how they grew it. Let them help prepare the foods. I know I have said this before, but it can take kids 15 exposures before their
curiosity is piqued enough to try a new food.

* Be a fun healthy eating role model. The kids are watching you and paying attention. Pile on those veggies on your plate
and let them know how delicious it is. A little extra acting is
okay. You have an audience! It’s okay for kids to have a dessert or high sugar, high fat food once in awhile. Avoid completely eliminating a food they enjoy. It will only make them want it more. Instead, teach your child how these foods are good to have once in a while. Help them learn to eat small portions of these kinds of foods. We have to be realistic. Being healthy is about moderation, balance and portion sizes. There is room in a child’s diet for all kinds of foods. Some every
day and other once in while. When there are independent tweens/teens they will be making their own food choices. Home is a chance to teach children good eating habits and that includes teaching them about these high sugar foods and high fat foods.

* Avoid letting your child snack all day long. If they aren’t very hungry at mealtime they are
less likely to try new foods.
* Make the foods interesting. Jazz up those vegetables and fruits. Kids love dipping foods, so how about adding a low fat dip for their vegetables or fruits. Serve them their vegetable with a vegetable made of into a picture or funny face. Just image theirfaces when they sit down and see a happy smile made of celery, carrots and cucumbers. Make fruits and vegetables a fun event for kids. Have them color their plate with the food item. See if they can name the different colors. You can come up with different games using fruits and vegetables that can peak their interest about the food.
* If you find a couple of vegetables that they do like, well, it is okay to repeatedly serve
them. Just continue to introduce one new food at a time.
* To add more nutrition for that stubborn picky eater who absolutely refuses to eat vegetables or fruits, be creative. You can add vegetables into some of their favorite meals. Dice them finely and add these
healthy foods to their favorite meatloaf, stew, soup, casserole dish or

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