Children with asthma are more likely to be overweight, and obesity, in turn, often makes asthma more severe. To find out why, researchers at two British institutions have launched a project to understand the factors leading to obesity in asthmatic children. They hope their insights will lead to interventions that help asthmatic kids maintain a healthy weight.
“Asthma is one of the most common chronic illnesses in children, with no current therapeutic cure,” project leader Claire Farrow at Birmingham’s Aston University said in a press release. “Children who live with asthma are much more likely to be overweight or obese than other children, and if they are obese, their risk of having severe asthma is three times higher.”
Aston researchers will work with the respiratory team at Birmingham Children’s Hospital to explore the interactions between asthma and body weight in the study, which has received £70,000 (nearly $90,500) in funding.
The funding will let doctoral candidate Rebecca Clarke — working with Teresa Evans, a respiratory nurse at Birmingham Children’s — study how the disease affects eating, exercise and weight in affected children. Their research will focus on factors that make it more difficult for asthmatic children to maintain a healthy weight. But they will also examine how weight and exercise affect asthma management.
Their studies will involve gathering information from hospital staff, as well as interviews with affected children and teenagers, and also their parents.
“Birmingham has a high prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and young people and in some areas of the city, 24 percent of children are overweight or obese when they start school and this rises to 40 percent by the time they leave primary school,” said Farrow, explaining that even though this is a problem for all children, those with asthma might be particularly affected.
“Carrying excess weight can make the symptoms of asthma much worse,” Farrow said. “Children are more likely to wheeze, to have a night cough, and to need hospital care for their symptoms.”
Added researcher Gemma Heath, who works at both Aston and Children’s Hospital: “It is important that we understand how asthma impacts on weight in children so that we can develop tailored programs to support healthy weight in children who are living with asthma. Treatments for childhood obesity may not be as effective for children with asthma because they are not tailored to the unique needs and anxieties related to having asthma, or parenting a child who has asthma.”