Childhood Asthma May Encourage Obesity

“Children who don’t feel well [due to asthma] can’t exercise,” she said. Also, “part of it is fear.” They’re afraid of an asthma attack. That inactivity can lead to obesity, Hernandez-Trujillo said.

Doctors usually prescribe two types of medication for asthma: a long-term control inhaler; and a quick-relief, or rescue, inhaler for use during flare-ups, according to the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

For the study, the researchers reviewed medical records of over 2,000 students, aged 5 to 8, enrolled in the large Southern California Children’s Health Study. At the study start, no one was obese; 13.5 percent had asthma.

Researchers followed the students for up to 10 years. During that time, nearly 16 percent of the children developed obesity.

Having asthma was linked to a raised risk, and the association held even after accounting for factors such as health insurance and physical activity, the study authors said.

But kids who used rescue medicine, such as albuterol, during an asthma attack had a 43 percent lower risk of becoming obese, the findings showed. However, the study found no link between maintenance medications (inhaled steroids) and reduced risk.

The researchers duplicated the findings in another sample of children from the Children’s Health Study.

Hernandez-Trujillo said that the take-home message from this study is that “we need to ensure patients with asthma receive proper treatment.”

As long as asthma is controlled, she said, children can lead a normal life, including getting physical activity.

Gilliland agreed. Be sure your child’s asthma symptoms are not limiting sports activity or other exercise, he said.

Also, seek help if a child has sleep issues because good sleep can reduce obesity risk, he added.

Hernandez-Trujillo tells her patients who are trying out for sports, “It’s not about being first. It’s about trying.”

The study was published online Jan. 20 in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

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