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Diabetic Children More Likely to Have Asthma

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

A new study suggests that children with diabetes are more likely to have asthma, and that children that have both conditions find it more difficult to keep their blood sugar levels under control.

The study was reported in the journal Pediatrics.

The new study looked at asthma rates from 2002 to 2005 for 1,683 kids with type 1 diabetes and another 311 who had type 2 diabetes. Close to 11% of these children also had asthma, the study showed. This number is higher than the 8.7% seen among all children in the U.S.

The children with both diseases also had higher levels of hemoglobin A1c . A1c is a blood test that provides an average blood sugar reading during a two to three month period.

Among children with diabetes who had asthma, the rate was higher in children who had type 2 diabetes. The asthma rate for those children was 16.1%, vs. 10% for children with type 1 diabetes. Many children in the study with either type of diabetes were overweight or obese.

The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown. It is most likely an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to attack cells in the pancreas that make insulin. It can also be passed down through families.

Type 2 diabetes is a disease more commonly associated with adults. In fact, it used to be called adult-onset diabetes. But type 2 diabetes in children is on the rise, fueled largely by the obesity epidemic.

Medications to control asthma can also have varying affects on blood sugar levels. Leukotriene inhibitors may improve blood sugar control in some children, while other medications such as oral steroids, may increase blood sugar levels.

Children with both diseases, who were also taking medication to treat their asthma, had better blood sugar levels.

Why is blood sugar control so important?

Diabetes is a life-long chronic disease in which there are high levels of sugar in the blood.

If your child’s blood sugar level stays higher than normal, his or her body will adjust to that level. Over time, high blood sugar damages the eyes, heart, kidneys, blood vessels, and nerves.

If your child’s blood sugar continues to rise, his or her kidneys will increase the amount of urine produced and your child can become dehydrated.

If your child becomes severely dehydrated, he or she can go into a coma and possibly die.

Controlling your child’s blood sugar level is extremely important!

What are the symptoms of asthma?

Symptoms of asthma are wheezing when your child exhales, coughing, breathlessness, or chest tightness.

In asthma related to exercise (exercise–induced asthma) or asthma that occurs at night (nocturnal asthma), wheezing may be present only during or after exercise (exercise-induced asthma) or during the night, especially during early part of morning (nocturnal asthma).

Coughing: Cough may be the only symptom of asthma, especially in cases of exercise-induced or nocturnal asthma. Cough due to nocturnal asthma (nighttime asthma) usually occurs during the early hours of morning, from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. Most often, the child doesn’t cough anything up so there is no phlegm or mucus. Also, coughing may occur with wheezing.

Chest tightness: The child may feel like the chest is tight or won’t expand when breathing in, or there may be pain in the chest with or without other symptoms of asthma, especially in exercise-induced or nocturnal asthma.

Symptoms can range from mild to severe.

The bottom line of the study suggests that if your child has diabetes, he or she may also be at a higher risk for asthma, and that a combination of both diseases can make it much harder to control your child’s blood sugar levels.

If your child has both chronic illnesses, make sure that you keep a regular check on their blood sugar levels and treat their asthma when needed. If you have any questions about whether your child may or may not have asthma, it’s best to discuss it with your pediatrician.

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