CHARLOTTE – The month of May has been dedicated as National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. May is such an important month to spread awareness and advocate for patients, especially pediatric patients, with this disease. Because children and adults with allergy-triggered asthma struggle more during the peak of the spring pollen season, May is the perfect month to bring awareness to one of the most common diseases among children. By bringing awareness to the disease, people will be better educated and understand when they may need to seek additional help from their physician.
Asthma is one of the most common chronic conditions among children. It currently affects an estimated 6.1 million children under 18. Asthma is a disease of the airways within the lungs. The disorder causes the narrowing of the airways from both inflammation and constriction of the muscles in the airways. There is also increased mucus production with the airways. These processes leave these children feeling short of breath with coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness. Of the population of children suffering from asthma, 5-10% are classified as severe.
Asthma can be diagnosed in childhood as early as infancy. Most children with asthma are able to thrive with an appropriate treatment plan that includes both daily control and as-needed rescue medications. A thorough Asthma Action Plan is provided by the physician managing each child’s asthma to help control and prevent exacerbations of ER care and hospitalizations. Awareness of the disease and its symptoms is one of the best ways to help bring awareness to everyone around you.
Dr. Marc Chester, a Pediatric Pulmonologist at Novant Health Pediatric Pulmonology – Carmel in Charlotte, is one of the two physicians at the practice who are currently treating pediatric patients with asthma. Their office encourages everyone to spread awareness to the community in the month of May, and most importantly, to those pediatric patients with asthma. Patients and parents of patients are encouraged to ask their physician about their breathing if they believe they are having difficulty and suspect they may have asthma. There are many experiencing very mild symptoms while other patients suffer from more severe symptoms. Dr. Chester works closely with each of his patients to understand their symptoms and classify the severity of their asthma. Using tools like the Asthma Control Test, patients and their parents answer questions about asthma control, which provides a numerical score to help determine if asthma symptoms are well-controlled. In older children, lung function testing also helps determine if asthma is appropriately controlled. These tools help Dr. Chester create an individualized and effective treatment plan. Once a treatment plan is begun, frequent follow-up appointments help Dr. Chester adjust the treatment plan to provide optimal asthma control. In December, the 2020 Focused Updates to the Asthma Management Guidelines from the NAEPP were published. Several new recommendations were made regarding asthma management for children with different asthma severity levels.
Anyone who is or knows a child or adult who is suffering from asthma should take a minute to gain additional knowledge during the month of May to better understand how an effective treatment plan is a key to better control and improved quality of life. This month is a perfect time to take some time to focus on ways that we can better understand what asthma is and how many people, especially children, are suffering daily. There are many ways to help, but having a better understanding of the condition, what the symptoms are, and where to find help are some of the most important ways.