Countless Childhood Dreams Saved
Brother and Sister Share Asthma Diagnosis
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"Carlos's asthma is more severe and he was diagnosed at a younger age than his sister was," Ms. R says of her two children, who both have asthma. Her son's treatment started with low-dose steroid inhalers, but his asthma became worse and he had to be hospitalized, twice.
Thankfully, Carlos came to the University of Maryland Children's Hospital (UMCH), where asthma specialists in the Division of Pediatric Pulmonology, Allergy and Sleep Medicine provide comprehensive preventive asthma care. By assessing what triggers a child's asthma, performing medical tests, prescribing medication and extensively educating patients and their families, UMCH asthma specialists help patients literally breathe easier.
Other medical conditions, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), commonly occur in tandem with asthma. UMCH gives patients coordinated access to the pediatric specialists – otolaryngologists (ENTs) and gastroenterologists (GI doctors) – who treat these conditions. Also, through the Breathmobile, a mobile asthma clinic, UMCH directly brings free, specialty-based asthma care to Baltimore City schools.
When the UMCH allergy and asthma team saw Carlos, he showed signs of sleep apnea – a condition that left him gasping for air at night. A sleep study confirmed he had OSA, and the team referred him to an ENT doctor who recommended removing Carlos's tonsils and adenoids. After his surgery and the asthma specialist's prescription of what his mom calls the "top dog medicine," Carlos has been able to stay out of the hospital for the past five years.
However, when Ms. R's daughter Ja'kayla was about 3, she, too, started to have a difficult time breathing. Soon, she was diagnosed with asthma triggered by allergies to environmental factors – in her case, trees and grass.
"All children with persistent asthma should have allergy testing to identify potential asthma triggers," suggests Mary Bollinger, DO, a board-certified allergist and Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "By addressing these triggers as well as treating nasal allergies and prescribing the appropriate preventive medication, most children can have well-controlled asthma."
With her allergies in check, Ja'kayla's condition was controlled by low-dose inhalers for several years. However, at age 9, she had to be hospitalized for asthma three times and spent two days in the pediatric ICU.
Today, in large part because of the Breathmobile, UMCH asthma specialists are steadily helping Ja'kayla achieve better asthma control.
"Kids who come to the Breathmobile are able to receive care right at their schools," says Lisa Bell, CRNP, a pediatric allergy nurse practitioner who runs the program. "By doing this, we see a dramatic decrease in emergency department visits, hospitalizations and missed school days due to asthma."
Parents across the community are grateful for the program.
"University of Maryland is the only hospital I trust my kids with," says Ms. R.
When they grow up, Carlos, who has an interest in technology, wants to be a soldier and Ja'kayla, who enjoys rapping and performing, wants to be an actress.