Anxiety Helps in Asthma Attacks

Children who experience anxiety during an asthma attack have better outcomes, perhaps because they’re paying close attention to their symptoms. In a one-year study of 267 children of Puerto Rican and Mexican descent, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Children’s Hospital at Montefiore (CHAM) found that children who report feeling anxious during an asthma attack (termed “illness-specific panic-fear”) are more likely to have better pulmonary function, fewer asthma symptoms, and fewer asthma-related emergency room visits than children whose asthma attacks did not trigger anxiety.

Jonathan Feldman, Ph.D.

Jonathan Feldman, Ph.D.

The two Latino subgroups profiled in this study differ greatly in asthma prevalence and problems: Puerto Rican children have the highest rates of asthma and morbidity, while Mexican children have the lowest rates. Identifying predictors of positive asthma management behaviors— such as being attentive to asthma symptoms and avoiding asthma triggers—may help reduce these ethnic disparities in asthma outcomes. The researchers recommend that clinicians distinguish between anxiety arising from an asthma attack--which is helpful—and general anxiety, which may cause children to unnecessarily avoid activities such as participation in gym class.

The study, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, was led by Jonathan Feldman, Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics at Einstein and in the division of academic general pediatrics at CHAM.

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