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Kid Health

Recent Improvements in Treatment Make Asthma Easier to Live With

November 19, 2001|EMILY DWASS

Children with asthma may feel that no one understands what they go through, but the truth is, they are not alone. About 5 million kids in the United States have asthma, a chronic disease that causes breathing problems. Although there is no cure, treatment has improved dramatically in recent years.

"You can learn to control asthma and not have asthma control you," says Dr. Andy Liu, a pediatric asthma specialist at National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver.

People with the disease seem to have been born with a vulnerability to it, and it can run in families. Asthma symptoms can be triggered during an allergic reaction or after being sick with a cold. Some kids find out they have asthma when they become active in sports and have trouble breathing.

But that does not mean asthmatic kids should avoid sports. Liu says children with asthma can do most activities, provided they follow advice from their doctors. They should also be prepared, meaning they should be able to recognize early warning signs, which are the body's way of alerting you to get help. Everyone has different early warning signs, but common ones include a headache or stomachache, a funny feeling in your chest, watery eyes, sneezing and coughing.

Kids who have these signs need to tell a responsible grown-up, such as a parent, teacher or coach. A grown-up can help you evaluate whether to take medicine or to see the doctor. Getting immediate treatment can help you avoid serious symptoms, such as wheezing and shortness of breath.

Liu emphasizes the importance of taking the medicine prescribed by your doctor. Most kids require daily medication; in addition, there are inhalers and other treatments for episodes that require immediate action. Following your doctor's plan can help you lead a normal life. Ignoring symptoms can be dangerous and puts you at risk for serious health problems.

Liu says the lessons you learn in dealing with asthma can make you stronger and help you in other areas of your life. Although asthma is a challenge, you can learn to live with it and still reach your goals.

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* Next month's topic: Being safe before and after school.

* Kid Health runs the third Monday of the month. E-mail Emily Dwass at emilydwass@yahoo.com.

* Do you like to draw? Send art submissions for next month's topic to Kid Health, Health section, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012. Include age, grade and school. Submissions cannot be returned.

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