Asthma shouldn’t keep a kid from being a kid – Dispelling myths

asthma mythsWhen your child experiences an asthma attack it can be terrifying for both your child and for you.

Understandably, you want to take the precautions to prevent asthma attacks, but there are many myths about asthma. Some of these myths can lead parents to overly limit a child’s activities and negatively impact your child’s health.

Dr. Jamie Ruderfer, a pediatric pulmonologist with Pediatric Pulmonary Associates, sets the record straight and explains how parents should take the appropriate precautions that build strong health because, as she says, “asthma shouldn’t keep a kid from being a kid.”

MYTH ONE: Allergies and exercise are the most common asthma triggers

Actually, the most common trigger of pediatric asthma is the rhinovirus, or common cold. The flu is right behind the cold as a significant asthma trigger.

I strongly agree with the American Academy of Pediatrics that every child should receive a flu vaccine, and it is even more important for asthmatic children.

Does that mean allergies and exercise aren’t triggers?

Allergies and exercise can be serious triggers, they just aren’t the most common triggers of asthma-related difficulties.

Every child who experiences asthma will have unique triggers. Some will be triggered more by allergies or exercise. Some will be triggered more by viral colds. This is where proper expert advice on management comes in.

Before taking extreme precautions, an evaluation by a pediatric pulmonologist can determine your child’s your child’s unique experiences with asthma and create a management plan that fits your child’s needs and lifestyle.

Should parents take extra precautions to keep their child from getting a cold?

When it comes to colds, asthmatic children cannot realistically take different precautions than a child who does not have asthma.

Parents need to work, and children need to go to school and daycare. I’m a mom, too, and I understand that preventing a child from catching a cold is nearly impossible. We should still take precautions, but reasonable and effective ones – like a flu shot, hand washing/sanitizing, a healthy diet and good sleep.

If an asthmatic child catches a cold (which they will), it does not mean that an acute asthmatic episode is certain – it means that parents should be more alert for signs and symptoms. Again, management is key. Your child should have an individualized asthma action plan developed by their pediatrician or pediatric pulmonologist for when they get the sniffles.

MYTH TWO: Asthma symptoms only involve wheezing, right?

Wheezing (both breathing in and out) is a symptom, but there are other symptoms and signs that parents should be aware of.

Symptoms the child may have an escalating issue include:

  • Chest tightness
  • Chronic cough
  • Respiratory infection
  • Shortness of breath
  • Waking in the night with breathing difficulty

Acute symptoms that require immediate treatment involve:

  • Severe wheezing
  • Rapid and/or labored breathing
  • Coughing that doesn’t stop
  • Pressure and pain in the neck and chest
  • Difficulty talking due to shortness of breath
  • Blue lips or fingernails

If your child is experiencing any of these acute symptoms, go to the nearest emergency department or call 911 immediately.

MYTH THREE: My child hasn’t had symptoms for a long time – so I don’t have to be as aware?

Children can go for long periods without asthma being triggered. Asthma is a serious condition and while parents don’t need to be overly cautious, they should regularly visit a health-care provider, stick to the asthma management plan and always be alert to symptoms.

MYTH FOUR: To prevent asthma just cut out sports

I’m just so afraid of an asthma attack – should I just cut out sports entirely?

An asthma diagnosis should not keep a kid from being a kid. Having a solid, ongoing management plan will make it possible for your child to safely enjoy sports and other physical activity.

Dr. Ruderfer graduated from the University of California, Irvine Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a B.S. in biological sciences with emphasis in cell biology. She received her medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine, and completed her 3-year residency in pediatrics at Winthrop University Hospital and a 3-year fellowship in pediatric pulmonary at Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children’s Hospital. She is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Ruderfer is married to Dr. Daniel Ruderfer (TMCOne pediatric infectious disease) and has two sons, Ethan and Josh, ages 3 and 6.





When big breathing problems trouble little ones – Pediatric pulmonologists provide expert care

Asthma- when to see the pediatric pulmonologistStruggling to breathe can be terrifying, especially for children – and their parents. Acute and chronic respiratory challenges including asthma need specialized care to keep airways open – enter the pediatric pulmonologist.

Chiarina Galvez, M.D., explains when a child with asthma symptoms should see a pediatric pulmonology specialist.

What is pediatric pulmonology?

Pediatric pulmonology is a medical specialty that focuses on the care of infants, children and teenagers with disorders of the lung and airways, and those with sleep-related breathing problems.

If a child has moderate-to-severe asthma, should the child see a pediatric pulmonologist?

Children with moderate-to-severe persistent asthma may benefit from a consultation with a pulmonologist. Asthma guidelines recommend seeing a specialist for children ages 0 to 4 years who need daily controller therapy.

These recommendations are made because several studies have shown that patients who received specialized care had better outcomes, which included improvements in asthma symptoms, as well as fewer hospitalizations and emergency department visits.

If the asthma diagnosis is uncertain, or if there are difficulties maintaining asthma control, then pulmonology referral should be strongly considered.

Asthma is not as common in Arizona because the climate is hot and dry – right?

Unfortunately, we’ve learned over the years that asthma is prevalent in the state. In 2014, it was estimated that the prevalence of asthma in Arizona children aged 17 years and younger was higher than the national average (10.9 percent vs 9.2 percent).

Asthma is a complex condition, and it is likely that genetics and multiple environmental factors interact to trigger the disease.

The right environment depends on the individual’s triggers. A climate that might be good for one child’s asthma, might be terrible for another. Achieving good asthma control requires working with a specialist to identify and avoid triggers, medication adherence and regular follow-up visits to optimize therapy.

What respiratory symptoms should a parent of a child with asthma be mindful of?

In children, symptoms of respiratory problems are often varied and may be subtle. If a child is experiencing any of the following symptoms, a pediatric pulmonologist may be able to help.

  • Cough for more than four weeks and is not improving
  • Two (or more) episodes of pneumonia in one year
  • Chronic wet cough
  • Pauses or stops breathing while awake or asleep
  • Fast or labored breathing on a frequent basis
  • Frequent or recurrent brassy or honking cough
  • Gets a cough after he or she choked on food or another object, even if he or she choked on the object days or weeks ago

It may also be helpful to see a pediatric pulmonologist if a child has received treatment due to a respiratory illness.

  • Hospitalization
  • More than one visit to an emergency department
  • Received more than two courses of oral steroids in the past year
  • Has complicating conditions (e.g., chronic lung disease of prematurity)

Dr. Galvez - pediatric pulmonologistWhat motivated Dr. Galvez to become a pediatric pulmonologist?

It has been my life’s calling to care for children who are acutely ill and admitted to the hospital. But what makes pediatric pulmonology so special to me is the opportunity to see patients over the long term – I build relationships with the children and their families. It’s why I chose this field.

In addition to completing medical school and a pediatric residency, Dr. Chiarina Galvez completed her pediatric pulmonary fellowship – a three-year, specialized training in the treatment and management of pediatric, respiratory illnesses.

What are the most common illnesses you treat?

Conditions we frequently treat include asthma, bronchopulmonary dysplasia (breathing problems related to prematurity), chronic cough, recurrent pneumonia and sleep apnea. We also take care of patients who are technology dependent, such as those with tracheostomies and on home ventilators and oxygen.

Dr. Galvez is a pediatric pulmonologist at TMCOne. Call (520) 324-7200 for more information.






Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461