Challenges in Pediatric Care: The Rise of Childhood Obesity

Child obesity rates have jumped to roughly 20% over the past several decades, which is a significantly greater population percentage than ever before. When factoring in children who are merely overweight, that figure jumps to around 50%. Multiple factors can cause child obesity, but pediatricians can help combat this raging epidemic in several different ways.

Education

As with many health situations, pediatricians can help prevent child obesity by educating children and parents about proper dietary and lifestyle habits. Child obesity increases the odds of developing prediabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and other diseases, so proper education of children and parents before children become obese can prevent child obesity from ever occurring. Since child obesity often leads to adult obesity, early education is key to keeping overall obesity levels low.

Examination

Obesity In Children

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Pediatricians should frequently use BMI (body mass index) to evaluate children’s weight levels. Children that fall in the 85th percentile or above according to the BMI are considered overweight, while those who rank 95th or higher are labeled obese. Early screening using BMI can help pediatricians catch child obesity before it gets severe, allowing them to further educate children and parents about the dangers and causes of—as well as treatments for—child obesity. Obesity may also be a symptom of a more severe medical problem, so pediatricians may also test children for various diseases and disorders that can cause obesity, leading to the early diagnosis and treatment of other diseases.

Intervention

Since 30% of all children are already overweight or obese, pediatricians must treat these children by helping them lose weight through weight management programs, counseling, and other similar measures. Genetics, diet, amount of exercise, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status can all factor into child obesity, so pediatricians will often use weight management programs that can be adjusted to address the needs of each child. Intervening early could help curb instances of diabetes and other diseases brought on by child obesity.

WHO projections based on examinations of current trends have child obesity increasing to roughly 70 million children by 2025. This increasing of child obesity could lead to more instances of cancer, diabetes, and osteoarthritis as well as an even greater monetary burden on the healthcare system. Pediatricians must continue to educate parents and children, examine children using BMI and other testing methods, and help children who are already obese lose and better manage their weight.

Childhood Asthma Care Considerations

Childhood Asthma

Childhood asthma is the top chronic illness with which children struggle; it continues to increase in incidence and frequency due to multiple factors. It can be difficult to diagnose due to the shortcomings of lung testing and asthma’s similarity to other respiratory problems. Chronic coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and fatigue are some common symptoms of childhood asthma; children can have asthma attacks of varying levels of severity due to various triggers and circumstances.

What is Childhood Asthma?

Asthma is a respiratory condition that negatively affects the lungs and airways. Triggers such as tobacco smoke, allergens, air pollution, and exercise can tighten the muscles around the bronchial tubes, making breathing difficult. Childhood asthma is common; in fact, it is the number one cause of missed school days and the number three cause of child hospitalization. Diagnosis can be challenging since symptoms like coughing, chest tightness, and fatigue can also be symptoms of problems like sinusitis, rhinitis, and acid reflux. Lung testing is also not possible due to the lungs’ development rate in children, so kids under 6 years of age will likely be diagnosed with asthma based only on exhibited symptoms.

How Many Children Have Asthma?

Roughly 10% of all American children have asthma, which is twice as many as the approximately 5% of American adults who have asthma. Male children are more likely to have asthma than female ones, and African Americans are slightly more likely to have asthma than Caucasians. Asthma causes a cumulative average of about 14 million school days lost; approximately 36,000 children miss an average of 8 school days per year due to childhood asthma complications.

What Causes Asthma?

While a concrete cause of asthma is not known, multiple possible causes and risk factors exist. Genetics likely plays a role in childhood asthma, as may infant airways infections, exposure to air pollution, and second-hand tobacco smoke. Being allergic to pet dander, mold, or dust mites can also cause asthma attacks to occur, although these triggers are not necessarily the causes of asthma themselves. Avoiding these potential causes is the best means of preventing childhood asthma.

Types of Asthma

Many asthmatic children have allergy-triggered asthma, which means that their asthma symptoms are caused by allergies to pets, mites, mold, and other allergens. Obviously, limiting exposure to these asthma triggers can help decrease asthma symptoms in children with this type of asthma. The other main type of asthma is exercise-induced asthma, which causes children to have asthma symptoms after physical activity. Having EIA does not condemn kids to live inactive lives, however; in fact, a child with controlled asthma needs to exercise as this strengthens the lungs.

Asthma Treatments

There are many approaches to asthma treatment. Corticosteroid and combination inhalers are popular long-term asthma treatments as they can best control asthma symptoms over a period of time. Leukotriene modifiers are oral medications that decrease asthma symptoms for up to 24 hours. Shorter-term asthma treatments include bronchodilator medications like beta agonists and Ipratropium and oral and intravenous corticosteroids. It is important to work with your child’s doctor to have an asthma treatment plan in place.

Disclaimer: This website should not be used as a source of medical advice and is not affiliated with Lurie Children's Hospital in any way.