Asthma is Worse in Overweight Preschoolers
Chubby babies are cute, right? That’s why we never see advertisements featuring thin little tykes, but instead they always show full, round cheeks and pudgy hands. Once infants turn into toddlers and eventually preschoolers, they are using their muscles and really should slim down. However, in many cases these days, they don’t. Carrying excess weight at such a young age opens the door to a range of health issues, and one potential problem was just identified in recent research: difficulties in overweight youngsters with asthma.
The study, which took place at the Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina, found that preschoolers who have asthma may face considerably worse symptoms when they are overweight or obese.1 The results are based on an analysis of data from three separate clinical trials that were conducted between 2001 and 2015. More than 700 children, ranging in age from two to five years old, were included.
Body mass index (BMI) was measured in each of the subjects, and approximately one-third of them were overweight. They were randomly divided into four groups: some using corticosteroid inhalers daily, others using a placebo inhaler, others using inhalers on occasion, and the remainder using no inhalers. All of the children who were overweight or obese with a BMI above the 84th percentile (which means the child’s weight is greater than 84 percent of those his or her age) and who were not using an inhaler, experienced asthma symptoms for a whopping 70 percent more days than their peers not using an inhaler but who were at a healthy weight.
What’s more, the heavier kids tended to have full-blown asthma attacks more frequently compared to their counterparts in the normal weight range. Interestingly, though, the effectiveness of the corticosteroid inhalers was not lessened in children who were overweight or obese. Typical asthma symptoms, such as coughing, chest pain, and shortness of breath, were generally alleviated equally well in the overweight and normal weight preschoolers.
So, while it’s helpful that we have tools to manage this condition in our children, it is still hardly ideal for any of them to require corticosteroid drugs to find relief. These pharmaceutical medications have been linked to hoarseness, oral yeast infections, and the slowing of growth. And a 2008 study at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque showed that long-term use of inhaled corticosteroids may be associated with lower bone mass and density at the point in their lives when children’s bones should be growing the most.2
If you have a young child who has been diagnosed with asthma, keep in mind that this condition is closely related to allergies. Therefore, if you can manage your child’s allergies, you may help avoid triggering asthma symptoms. It may be helpful to have an inhaler handy just in case a severe attack strikes, but it is obviously better to prevent the problem in the first place and reduce dependency on corticosteroids. Plus, there are natural ways to reduce the inflammation caused by asthma, thereby relieving symptoms. Both ginger and vitamin D have been shown to have a positive effect on asthma, without any worries of side effects.
And the issue clearly demonstrated by the current study is one of helping your child lose excess weight to make his or her asthma considerably more manageable. If you could spare your child several extra weeks of suffering from asthma symptoms, of course you would do it. The best part is, it could very well be within your power.
While your child has probably already formed some bad eating habits if they are overweight or obese as a preschooler, it’s not too late to undo the damage. The good news is that your child still likely eats most meals with you, so you have a lot of control over what is consumed. The bad news? You have to stand strong if the begging and whining for chicken nuggets, pizza, milkshakes, donuts, chips, and all sorts of other junk food begins. In fact, if you start planning healthier meals and snacks for the whole family, you’ll be in it together and everyone will probably see health improvements over time.
- 1. Lang, Jason E.; et al. "Overweight/obesity status in preschool children associates with worse asthma but robust improvement on inhaled corticosteroids." Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 19 December 2017. Accessed 6 January 2018. http://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(17)31738-4/fulltext.
- 2. Kelly, H. William; et al. "The Effect of Long-term Corticosteroid Use on Bone Mineral Density in Children: A Prospective Longitudinal Assessment in the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP) Study." Pediatrics. July 2008. Accessed 7 January 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2928657/.