Children's Asthma in the Delta

June 7, 2006--Posted at 5:00 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR--Chances are you or someone you know suffers from asthma. A new study by the Arkansas Children's Hospital Research Institute plans to evaluate asthma in rural environments, specifically here in the Delta region.

Asthma, the chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways, makes breathing hard for a number of children.

"Approximatelyfive toten percent of children have asthma. It is the number one cause of hospitalization and school absenteeism," said Dr. Bryan Harvey of Harvey Pediatrics.

Almost five million children in the United States are diagnosed with asthma. Millions more go undiagnosed.  A number of them are here in the delta.

"It has a very strong impact on their sleep, on their ability to exercise, how they feel, and their overall energy," said Harvey.

The new study by the Arkansas Children's Hospital is aiming to determine why fewer children are diagnosed with asthma in the Delta.

"It is very, very rural, so access to health care can be 40, 60, 90 minutes away," said Harvey.

Other contributing factors to asthma include farm animals, chemicals from farming, and a number of allergens in their homes.

"One of the biggest environmental factors is exposure to tobacco smoke, that can trigger children to develop asthma," said Harvey.

Asthma is best treated by a doctor, but if you are concerned your child might have the disease, Dr. Harvey says symptoms are fairly obvious.

"Probably the biggest are chronic cough. Especially at night when they lay down, they just have this persistent cough, that is week after week, and coughing after exercise," said Harvey.

The good news for children with asthma is 60% of the cases resolve themselves by the time they become young adults. The study will identify 120 children in the Marvell, Eudora and surrounding school districts who have asthma. They will study their environments and other factors that could contribute to the condition.