Special camps help kids with asthma cope

Society Materials 4 January 2008 03:25 (UTC +04:00)

( Reuters )- Attending a special asthma camp can help children improve their asthma management skills, a new study shows. However, more than one third of the children still had poorly controlled asthma, despite being under a doctor's care.

"I think some of what we saw was just parents accepting that kids miss school, kids miss sleep at night, kids can't participate in sports and certain activities," lead investigator Dr. Michael J. Welch, at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, told Reuters Health.

He added: "Asthma's very controllable, treatable . " These kinds of impacts on people's lives don't have to really take place."

Welch and his team evaluated 1,783 children attending 24 different asthma camps. There are about 120 asthma camps nationwide sponsored by the American Lung Association (ALA), and nearly 10,000 children attend them each year, the researchers note in their report.

Camp attendees have a mix of various socioeconomic backgrounds. Welch noted that ALA makes an effort to reach out to children living in poorer neighborhoods.

All of the children had their diagnosis confirmed by a physician and a physician was required to fill out portions of the application, "so that it can be safely said that all the children in this survey were being followed by a physician," the researchers write in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

However, 37 percent of the children had inadequately controlled asthma. Among children who had used health care services in the past year, 44 percent had one or more emergency department visits, 10 percent were hospitalized at least once, and 76 percent required unscheduled visits to the doctor's office to treat asthma flare-ups.

Six percent of all children in the study had missed more than 2 weeks of school in the previous year. On average, children in the study woke up twice a week due to asthma symptoms.

Children who previously attended asthma camp had fewer visits to the emergency department and the doctor's office, as well as fewer hospitalizations, than those who hadn't been to an asthma camp before. Veteran camp attendees also had better asthma management skills and were more likely to use medications to control their asthma.

The findings show that camps can help children with asthma and their families to manage the disease more effectively. "At least what we can do is instill in parents an expectation that their kids can do better," Welch said.