asthma

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Schools Are at the Front Line of Asthma Fight

Shameka Bibb gives her son Sarquan Holland Jr., age 5, his asthma inhaler at school before she leaves him for the day. Hollands asthma is so severe that he has been on Prednisone since he was three and is on the strongest dose of inhaler, not usually given to children. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

Shameka Bibb gives her son Sarquan Holland, Jr., age 5, his asthma inhaler at school before she leaves him for the day. Holland’s asthma is so severe that he has been on prednisone since he was three and is on the strongest dose of inhaler, not usually given to children. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

California’s network of 230 school-based health clinics are set to incubate a new education program meant to address the environmental factors that trigger asthma attacks. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded a $600,000 grant to the Oakland-based Public Health Institute’s Regional Asthma Management & Prevention (RAMP) program. RAMP is now set to design a training program for the state’s school-based clinic staff on how to prevent and manage environmental asthma triggers in school, at home and in the community.

Asthma affects 900,000 children in California and seven million children nationwide. The disease causes airways in the lungs to swell and narrow. This makes breathing difficult. Oakland’s network of school-based clinics have been on the forefront of providing asthma education and treatment to its school-aged children, but will now have an added resource to address the environmental risk factors.

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Fresno Pilots Asthma Program Aimed at Tapping Investors for Funds

Maura Vasquez tells health educator Nunu Sixay during a home visit on Tuesday, September 9, 2014, that her son, Jovani Garcia-Vasquez, 6, has not visited the emergency room since learning that administering his medication more regularly could help alleviate his asthma symptoms (Heidi de Marco/KHN).

During a home visit Maura Vasquez (R) tells health educator Nunu Sixay that her son, Jovani, 6, has not been to the E.R. since learning that administering his medication more regularly could help alleviate his asthma. (Heidi de Marco/KHN).

By Anna Gorman, Kaiser Health News

Inside her single-story home in the dry and dusty Central Valley, Dalia Mondragon scarcely sleeps. Several times a night, she tiptoes into her children’s rooms to make sure their chests are peacefully rising and falling.

Under the approach, investors fund a social impact bond; if a social program saves money — investors make money.

“I feel like any time they could stop breathing,” she says.

Mondragon and all four of her children have asthma -– a disease that has sent them to the hospital more times than she can count. So she is more than willing to open her home to Nunu Sixay, an asthma prevention worker trying to figure out what is triggering the attacks. On a recent visit, Sixay found some possible culprits: mold in the bathroom and aerosol furniture polish in the kitchen.

Sixay’s work visiting low-income families like the Mondragons is part of a public health experiment to help asthmatic children breathe easier and stay out of costly emergency rooms – with the aim of getting investors to pay for it. Continue reading

Can Air Pollution Cause Asthma in Kids? How About Autism?

(Getty Images/Thinkstock)

(Getty Images/Thinkstock)

We all know air pollution is not great for your health, but two new studies this week stressed just how bad it can be for children, infants and the developing fetus. Exposure to air pollution at a young age, these studies showed, can lead to an array of long-lasting health problems, including asthma and autism.

It’s not just that polluted air can, say, trigger asthma attacks. Now, researchers are finding that exposure to air pollution may actually cause some diseases.

“We’re discovering some of the long-term effects of this air pollution: things like lung development in kids,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

“Communities should be informed of what they’re breathing.” — Paul Cort, Earthjustice
A study led by UCSF found that African American and Latino infants living in communities with high automobile exhaust are more likely to develop childhood asthma than those living with less pollution. This is significant because minority communities are more likely to live near congested roadways.

In California, African Americans and multi-racial people have some of the highest rates of asthma, according to the CDC. But rigorous scientific studies that examine just how the lungs of minority children develop when swamped with car exhaust have been rare. Continue reading

Could Acetaminophen Worsen Asthma?

Tylenol is a brand name of the drug acetaminophen. (Flickr/ Allen)

Tylenol is a brand name of the drug acetaminophen. (Flickr/ Allen)

A study published earlier this month in Pediatrics finds a strong association between the use of acetaminophen and asthma, both in symptoms and number of cases, for children and adults.

John McBride, Director of the Respiratory Center at Akron Children’s Hospital, reviewed studies going back more than a decade, one of which looked at 300,000 children around the world. “Looking at the data,” he said, “it’s quite likely that acetaminophen is a problem for patients that have asthma.”

The association between asthma and acetaminophen, which many people know by the brand name, Tylenol, caught him by surprise, he says. “I read the literature and was stunned. I decided the people who really needed to know were primary are physicians and patients.”

“The children who took acetaminophen were twice as likely to be seen for an asthma attack.”
Among the most compelling studies was one done in 2000 at Boston University. Ironically, it was a follow up to research that had established the safety of ibuprofen.

The ibuprofen study followed 84,000 children with a fever who were randomly treated with either ibuprofen or acetaminophen. In 2000, researchers looked at the 1800 children who had previously been diagnosed with asthma. “The children who took acetaminophen were twice as likely to be seen for an asthma attack than kids who got ibuprofen, and the more acetaminophen they took, the more likely they were to be seen for an asthma attack,” McBride learned.
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Breath of Fresh Air on San Joaquin Valley Air District Board

Sunset through a Polluted Bakersfield Sky. (Andy Castro: Flickr)

Sunset through a Polluted Bakersfield Sky. (Andy Castro: Flickr)

Earlier this month, KQED’s Sasha Khokha reported Central Valley residents’ concerns that the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District was not effectively communicating public health warnings on poor air quality days.

Just hours after that report aired, State of Health brought news that the Valley Air District had issued an air quality alert using significantly stronger language than it had used before. Air quality activists were pleased with the new tone.

Today, air quality activists are cheering again. California Governor Jerry Brown appointed a new member to the Valley Air District board. And not just anyone, but a physician with a long background in public health.  The new appointee, Dr. Alex Sherriffs, is a professor at UCSF-Fresno in the Department of Family and Community Medicine. He also has been in private practice in Fowler since 1983.

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Asthmatic Kids at Risk in San Joaquin Valley

This post originally appeared in KQED’s NewsFix on November 1, 2011.

Water polo tournament at Fresno's Sunnyside High goes on, despite air quality so poor that school districts are supposed to cancel outdoor activities. (Photo: Sasha Khokha)

Water polo tournament at Fresno's Sunnyside High goes on, despite air quality so poor that school districts are supposed to cancel outdoor activities. (Photo: Sasha Khokha)

Today, KQED’s Sasha Khokha outlines how the lack of effective air monitoring policy in the San Joaquin Valley could be harming the people who live there. As she reports, a recent study from UCSF Fresno and CSU Fresno [PDF] finds a direct link between air pollution and asthma-related ER visits. The study found what researchers call a “linear association” between certain components of air pollution and asthma ER visits. In other words, as air pollution goes up, the likelihood of an asthmatic child heading to the ER goes up, too.

The San Joaquin Valley has some of the dirtiest air in the country and high rates of childhood asthma.

As air pollution goes up, the likelihood of an asthmatic child heading to the ER goes up, too.
 The culprits are two components of air pollution: ground-level ozone and particulate matter. Ground-level ozone can have corrosive effects on the lungs, decreasing lung function. Particulate matter are tiny particles, like soot.  The simple act of breathing carries these particles deep into the lungs where they stick and can cause breathing and heart problems.

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