Studies Are Connecting a Chronic Childhood Illness With Some Surprising Factors

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It is never easy to hear that your child has a chronic illness, even if there are treatments that provide good quality of life.

As medical technology advances, so too does our understanding about how we can prevent and treat different conditions in order to lay the foundation for good health throughout life – especially with childhood illnesses.

Thousands of children are affected by one chronic illness in particular, and the medical community is learning more about its connections to other mental and physical health conditions.

More than six million children in the United States have been diagnosed with asthma, and of those, half have missed school due to an asthma attack.

It is the most diagnosed pediatric illness in the U.S.

But a recent study published on the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Network Open online has found some surprising links between pediatric asthma and other diagnosed disabilities in children.

The study was conducted on data collected from surveys of children’s health over the course of the last couple of years and included parent participation on over 72,000 children with asthma symptoms.

The study served to provide more proof of what the medical community has seen as a common trend in recent years — around half of all children diagnosed with asthma also have a delay or disability.

These included, but were not limited to, behavioral issues, autism, learning disabilities and developmental or cognitive delays — as well as physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy.

Speech and language, as well as hearing, delays were also associated with a higher risk of developing childhood asthma at the same rate as other disabilities.

All of these diagnoses were found to double a child’s risk of also developing asthma.

Children born prematurely are also at higher risk for asthma and other developmental delays, so studies of this sort are important to understanding all the factors behind asthma diagnoses in children.

Current guidelines for testing or diagnosing childhood asthma do not include any of these disabilities or delays as risk factors, but the pediatric medical community believes the guidelines should be updated to reflect growing proof of a connection.

One of the reasons for researching the links between asthma and other disabilities and delays is to find ways to help families whose children spend time with caregivers or are missing school on a regular basis.

Caregivers, childcare centers, and school staff must learn to detect the warning signs of a childhood asthma attack and how to treat it — especially in a child who may have a delay or disability that prevents them from effectively communicating their symptoms and discomfort.

While the data is clear that there is a connection between childhood asthma and disabilities, the question of “why” still remains unanswered.

Some pediatric researchers have found links between childhood stress or trauma during pregnancy.

And these factors also lead to questions on how socio-economic factors may influence the development of asthma in children.

Studies have already shown that children in low-income households, inner cities, and minority ethnicities have a higher risk of developing the chronic condition.

Another factor in the asthma-disabilities connection is that the pediatric medical community is looking into the fact that some treatments for asthma, such as inhaled corticosteroids, can affect behaviors.

It has not yet been studied in a clinical trial setting, but more information is needed on whether these asthma treatments in children may be causing behaviors like hyperactivity and lack of focus that could be misdiagnosed as a disorder like ADHD or a behavioral issue in the classroom.

By further studying these connections, those in the pediatric medical community hope to improve the quality of life for children with both asthma and a disability, such as preventing missed school days that lead to academic shortfalls.

In further proving a link between these childhood diagnoses, researchers hope to update guidelines in order to flag these children for earlier screening for asthma and come up with appropriate treatments for the best outcomes.

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