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Parkland health experts shine a light on pediatric asthma

The joy of children revolves around having fun, playing and letting their imaginations soar, but this could sometimes be clouded by asthma. In Texas, nearly 7% of children have asthma. That’s more than 492,000, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).

“Pediatric asthma is a chronic medical condition where the airways of the lungs can get inflamed, clogged and can close down if it is not treated correctly,” said Cesar Termulo, MD, Associate Medical Director at Parkland Health. “This can be seen in minors as young as 6 months but asthma can present itself at any age among children.”

Although it is unknown what causes asthma, Dr. Termulo said there are symptoms a parent or guardian should be aware of. He recommends that children be seen by a primary care physician for a more comprehensive assessment if symptoms arise. Among the symptoms to be on the lookout for are:

  • Wheezing (breathing with a whistle or rattle sound)
  • Cough that won’t go away
  • Rapid breathing
  • Complaints of chest hurting or chest tightness
  • Nighttime or early morning coughing

“At Parkland Health, when a parent or guardian brings a child for an asthma visit, we have an entire asthma team that spends a good amount of time assessing the patient’s symptoms,” said Dr. Termulo.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that each year 1 in 6 children with asthma will visit an Emergency Department, with roughly 1 in 20 asthmatic children being hospitalized. If a child is diagnosed with asthma, long-term control medications can be used daily to prevent an attack and quick-relief medications, also known as rescue medications, used to ease symptoms during an attack.

Through Parkland’s Access to Care & Coverage program, parents can learn about pediatric asthma, its symptoms and ways to reduce environmental triggers at numerous community pop-ups located in Dallas County.

“We have a text messaging program for our patients that provides educational material and follow-up questions about how they are managing their asthma. In doing so, we can call them if they are having problems and help assess remotely,” said Dr. Termulo.

The 2019 Dallas County Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) identified asthma as a leading chronic disease among children, specifically those living in six ZIP Codes located in the southeast of Dallas County (75210, 75211, 75215, 75216, 75217 and 75241). To help families navigate the condition, Parkland targeted interventions to improve children’s asthma control through Breath for Life & Learn for Life, a collaborative effort between Parkland and multiple organizations to address asthma in the community.

Dr. Termulo says asthma is multi-factorial, can be genetic and hereditary and if someone has it, some factors can predispose someone to an asthma attack with environmental triggers including:

  • Air viruses
  • Smoke exposure
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Dust mites
  • Pets and pet dander
  • Cleaners and disinfectants

“If asthma impacts you or your child, it is very important to have access to a doctor so it can be monitored and controlled to help live a more normal life,” said Dr. Termulo.

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