Conference Coverage

Managing asthma in children: Pets don’t always have to go



– It may not always be necessary to tell parents of children with asthma to get rid of the household pet, a recent study suggests.

Dr. Shahid Sheikh, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio Andrew D. Bowser/MDedge News

Dr. Shahid Sheikh

Children with uncontrolled asthma who were provided with guideline-appropriate care had significant improvements in a variety of asthma measures, regardless of whether parents reported pets or smoking at home, according to results of the 4-year, 471-patient prospective study.

Those results suggest that clinicians should be working to make sure the guidelines are being closely followed before, for example, telling parents they need to consider getting rid of the family pet, said Shahid Sheikh, MD, FCCP, of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio.

“As the guidelines still work, we need to focus and develop the connections with the family to make sure the patients are on the right treatment, and that they’re getting the medications,” Dr. Sheikh said in an interview at the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians.

The prospective cohort study by Dr. Sheikh and his colleagues, presented in a poster session, included children referred to a pediatric asthma center with the diagnosis of uncontrolled asthma. All patients received asthma care according to National Asthma Education and Prevention Program Expert Panel Report 3 guidelines.

Medications were changed as needed, and the asthma action plan was revised accordingly and reviewed with the family at each visit, Dr. Sheikh reported. After a baseline evaluation, clinic visits for the study occurred at 3 months, 6 months, and then at 1, 2, 3, and 4 years.

Out of 471 patients, 258 had pets, and 125 were in homes where smoking took place, according to parent reports.

Asthma control test scores were 15.1 at baseline for children in no-pet households, and 16.5 for those with pets; by the 3-month visit, scores increased to 20.1 and 20.3 for the no-pet and pet groups, and at 4 years, those scores had edged up to 22.2 and 22.7 (P = .371), Dr. Sheikh reported.

Similarly, after care was started, there was no significant difference between the no-pet and pet groups in mean percent of predicted forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1), wheezing, nighttime cough, albuterol use, and other factors over the 4 years of follow-up, he said.

Likewise, looking at the data by nonsmoking vs. smoking households, asthma control test scores at baseline were 16.1 and 15.1, respectively, and at 4 years they were 22.2 and 22.3 (P = .078), with a similar lack of difference in predicted FEV1, wheezing, and all other factors evaluated.

Getting rid of the family pet may need to be a consideration for some families, but based on these data, that might not be necessary for the majority of families, Dr. Sheikh said in the interview.

“On the other hand, we are not saying that if you are smoking, you should continue to smoke,” he added.

“What we are saying is that smoking is bad, but if your child is not getting better, I don’t want to blame your smoking for it. There may be something else which may be more important than smoking which we are missing – the child may not be getting the medicine, or may not be on the right medicine, or may have other comorbidities.”

Dr. Sheikh and his coinvestigators disclosed that they had no relationships relevant to the study.

SOURCE: Sheikh S et al. CHEST 2018. doi: 10.1016/j.chest.2018.08.666.

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