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The Kansas City Star: ER visits for asthma attacks surging for KC kids. Could climate change play a role?

By Andy Marso 


Kansas City Health Department director Rex Archer knows first-hand how scary it is to have a serious asthma attack.

Archer has had asthma since he was a kid and decades later, he still clearly remembers his chest tightening up after his football team suffered a rare loss.

Data collected by Archer’s agency showed asthma-related pediatric emergency room visits trending up from 2006 to 2015, with children of color disproportionately affected.

From 2006 to 2009, Kansas City kids never had more than 1,653 emergency room visits due to asthma. In 2010 that number spiked to 1,988 and has stayed at 1,871 or above ever since. From 2012 through 2015, it was above 2,000 visits every year but one.

The health department doesn’t yet know why, but it has some theories.

Bridgette Jones, a doctor who specializes in treating allergies and asthma at Children’s Mercy Hospital, said the hospital emergency rooms and clinics do seem to see spikes in asthma-related visits on ozone alert days.

“I do think environmental changes are contributing to the increased rates of asthma flare-ups we see,” Jones said. “But you know, asthma is multi-factorial. I don’t think we can blame it on one thing.”

She said there may be a genetic component as well, and access to care probably plays a role. There aren’t enough asthma specialists to go around, she said, and patients who can find a specialist sometimes run into insurance-related obstacles when it comes to medications.

But to get to the bottom of it will take more study and Jones said there’s a fundamental flaw in most asthma-related research: the demographic groups most effected — African-American and Latin kids — are underrepresented in clinical trials, if they’re represented at all.

“Children die here in the Kansas City area from asthma, unfortunately,” Jones said. “So it is a really serious disease.”


Read the full story via The Kansas City Star

Learn more about Allergy, Asthma and Immunology at Children's Mercy