Teens With Asthma Feel Isolated

They feel self-conscious, left out of activities

MONDAY, Nov. 15, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Teenage asthmatics would like to participate more fully in sports and other school activities, but feel hampered by their disease, according to an a University of Missouri allergist.

Worse, their self-consciousness could be leading them to stop taking their medications, said Dr. Chitra Dinakar, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Missouri, who is conducting a study of her preteen and teenage patients to determine why they stop taking their medicine as they get older.

In an ongoing study of 100 asthma patients, aged 8 to 18, Dinakar has found that 40 percent of asthmatics in this group report that having asthma sets them apart from their healthy peers.

Forty-five percent have felt excluded from school activities, athletics and clubs due to their asthma, and more than one-third of respondents feel uncomfortable using their inhaler in front of their friends.

"They can't do the activities that others do because they run out of breath, which makes them feel out of place," she said.

Dinakar presented her work on asthmatic teenagers Nov. 14 at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in Boston.

"I am trying to understand why, after age 8, many children stop taking their medicines when they did before, and to try to make life easier and better for them," Dinakar said.

One option is to set up asthma clubs for this age group, and Dinakar said the respondents were enthusiastic about this idea as long as it was fun.

"They don't want a scolding lecture about taking their medications, but would like social and group activities. They are particularly interested in recreational sports," she said.

"This is a great study because we need to raise awareness in the community about this disease and the social complications of sinus, asthma and allergy," said Dr. Jordan S. Josephson, an ear, nose, and throat surgeon at New York City's Lenox Hill Hospital, who treats many children with severe sinusitis and asthma and is himself an asthma sufferer.

For the study, Dinakar asked 100 preteen and teenage patients in the primary and adolescent clinics in her hospital to fill out questionnaires that includes multiple choice questions, as well as written responses about how they felt about the social implications of their disease.

So far, she has tallied the responses of half of the respondents.

More information

Learn more about childhood asthma from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

SOURCES: Chitra Dinakar, M.D., assistant professor, department of pediatrics, University of Missouri at Kansas City, Mo.; Jordan S. Josephson, M.D., ear, nose and throat surgeon, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Nov. 14, 2004, presentation, American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology annual meeting, Boston
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