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Will my daughter outgrow her asthma?
Q: My 3-year-old daughter was diagnosed with asthma after being hospitalized for an asthma attack. Her asthma seems to be brought on by smoke, cats and colds. She has been better since she’s been on medication and my husband quit smoking. Allergies and asthma run in my family. I had asthma as a child but it went away, and now I have allergies to pollens. My sister had asthma as a child and still has it as an adult. What’s the chance that my daughter will outgrow her asthma?
Jasmine Kansas City
A: Jasmine, allergies and asthma run in families because the genetic tendency can be inherited. Asthma is common, affecting between 5 and 10 percent of children. It is also known as “reactive airway disease” because the airways in asthmatic lungs are especially sensitive to substances such as allergens (pollen, mold, animal dander), respiratory viruses, cigarette smoke or exercise. These asthma triggers can cause the airways to spasm, swell up and produce mucus, which lead to the symptoms of an asthma attack: coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing.

Asthma can follow different patterns throughout life. Some young children have asthma, but as their airways grow and mature, usually during the school-age years, they outgrow it. Other children seem to outgrow their asthma during the school-age years but the asthma returns in early adulthood. Others continue to have asthma through the school-age years and adulthood. Finally, some people develop asthma for the first time as adults.

Some studies have followed asthmatic children for many years. They found that approximately 50 percent of young children with asthma continue to have it through childhood to adulthood. Approximately 50 percent appear to outgrow their asthma during later childhood but approximately half of those have a recurrence in adulthood. This means that only one in four children permanently outgrow the asthma; and approximately three out of four either continue to have it through childhood to adulthood, or have only a temporary break before it recurs in adulthood. The studies have found that asthma is more likely to persist or recur when children are diagnosed at a younger age, they have more severe symptoms, they have a history of allergies or a family history of allergies or asthma, and they are exposed to cigarette smoke.

It is impossible to predict what will happen to your daughter. But it’s very good that your husband quit smoking. Whether or not your daughter appears to outgrow her asthma later in childhood, continue to avoid her asthma triggers, keep her asthma medications on-hand and maintain close follow-up with her doctor. As your daughter becomes a teen-ager, remember to counsel her not to smoke and to stay away from people who do.

For more information about asthma and allergies, visit the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, www.aafa.org.

Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician