About 14 percent of Philly kids have asthma, nearly twice the national mark.
Though the Northeast Philadelphia weather wouldn’t have you believe it, spring is here. That means better weather (fingers crossed), but it also means parents and kids with asthma will have to be careful.
Approximately 14 percent of kids in Philadelphia have asthma — that’s much higher than the national average of 7.6 percent in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Northeast Times talked to pediatrician Dr. Lee Jaffee and pediatric nurse practitioner Stephanie Bosche of Tri-County Pediatrics about what cautions parents with asthma should take before the pollen count rises.
Jaffee said that it’s best to bring a kid in to see a doctor if a parent is concerned they have asthma. Some parents will assume they are demonstrating symptoms when in actuality they just have a regular or persistent cough.
“It’s always best to see the kid before making the diagnosis,” he said.
Kids with asthma have great trouble breathing, with some even using their stomach muscles to help them breathe. He said that kids who are normally active who now are less active may not want to exercise due to the exertion on their lungs. They may also have smaller appetites.
Every kid can respond to allergens differently, and both experts stressed the importance of finding out what is causing a kid to wheeze — both indoors and outdoors.
For outdoors, news channels will typically give the pollen count for the day. When going outside, there are no specific environments or areas of the city kids with asthma should avoid – parents should just be wary of the pollen count.
Because buildings and houses in Philadelphia are old, they could contain allergens that trigger a kid’s asthma.
“Dust, cockroaches, mold – a lot of different things could be environmental triggers for kids,” Jaffee said. “A lot of families will have them, especially those with lower socioeconomic status homes that are older and not as well maintained.”
Bosche emphasized keeping a close eye on opening windows during the spring, especially if there are plants on the outside.
“If you’re using an air conditioner, be sure to change the filter, because older ones can produce dust or mold,” she said.
Speaking of cleaning, it’s always a good idea to do spring cleaning around the house, especially in the kid’s room. Lingering mold and dust can all be triggers that aren’t easily spotted.
Jaffee recommended washing a kid’s stuffed animal at least once a week so that it does not pick up and store dust. If financially possible, he also recommended replacing carpet with hardwood floors or buying an air filtration system.
“Nobody should smoke,” Jaffee said, meaning in the house and out. “If cigarette smoke lingers on clothes, that can be enough to cause a reaction.”
Vacuuming is also an important step to eliminate dust.
The biggest piece of advice Jaffee imparted was to stay up to date on medication and start using it before problems arise.
“I can’t emphasize enough, if your kid’s allergies are seasonal, start to take medicine right now before they start to wheeze – that’s when they get in trouble,” he said. Jaffee said that with the current weather, around now in March would be a good time to start taking medication before the spring weather truly arrives.
Bosche agreed prevention is key. She helps work on the center’s asthma action plan, which assigns every patient an individualized chart of what the child’s parent, caretaker or school should do if the child should start exhibiting symptoms.
“It’s an educational tool that splits it into green, yellow and red zones so that a caretaker knows what to do in any situation,” she said.
Both experts agreed staying on top of the asthma and making sure a child is prepared is the most important aspect.
“Asthma could start as even a little sniffle, and in most cases could get worse,” Jaffee said. “March is not a bad time to start.” ••
Tri-County Pediatrics offers treatment for kids with asthma. They are located at the Northeast Shopping Center at 9121 Roosevelt Blvd., or at 821 Huntingdon Pike in Huntingdon Valley. Visit TriCountyPeds.com for more information.