Q: My 16-year-old was just told that she has asthma. She's about the sixth girl in her grade who's been diagnosed with this condition. What can moms do to help their daughters deal with asthma? — Rebecca G., Evanston, Ill.
A: We are sorry to hear about your daughter and her classmates, but unfortunately we're not very surprised. One out of every 10 school-age children in the U.S. has asthma. After puberty, females are much more likely than males to develop asthma. It turns out the male sex hormone testosterone suppresses an immune system cell involved in allergic asthma.
A recently published study in the Journal of External Medicine revealed that testosterone blocks innate lymphoid cells, or ILC2s. When these cells in the lungs are exposed to asthma allergens — such as pollen, dust mites, cigarette smoke and pet hair — they produce proteins that can lead to lung inflammation and damage. But, the study showed, when ILC2s detect testosterone, the cells stop reproducing.
That's the "why" of women and asthma, but now you need to focus on "how" to manage it.
Asthma demands an action plan that describes the daily treatment schedule and when to call the doctor or head to the emergency room. Your doctor should give you a written version, or you can print a form out at www.nhlbi.nih.gov. Search for "asthma action plan."
Your daughter's medication regimen probably will include the use of a long-term-control medicine, such as an inhaled corticosteroid. Fully 40 percent of children with asthma do not take long-term-control medication regularly. That leads to asthma attacks, overuse of rescue inhalers and hospitalization. Don't count your daughter among those! Her treatment plan also will call for having a short-acting rescue inhaler on hand — at school, in her backpack and at home. That can save her life if she gets a flare.
If your daughter and her classmates get regular medical care from an asthma specialist, follow the treatment guidelines and avoid asthma triggers, their breathing will improve, and they should thrive!
Q: I don't know about these fidget spinners. My kids want them, and I'm not sure I want them to have them. Are they OK or just a distraction? — Jodi R., Tampa, Fla.
A: It depends on your child. For some children, a spinner can have a very calming effect, and for others it's a huge distraction. Some schools are banning them. One teacher (Teacher T.F.) tweeted: "Am I the only teacher who has a burning desire to break every fidget spinner that enters my room?" But some special-ed programs are promoting these devices, and there's even an Australian study that found that such "fine motor activity" helps kids with ADHD do better in math class.
If you've somehow missed this phenomenon, a fidget spinner is a three-pronged, handheld propeller-like toy that spins around your finger on a ball-bearing ring. The device was designed in 1987 by Catherine Hettinger after visiting her sister in Israel and hearing about the clashes between Palestinian youth and Israeli security. She wanted to make a device or toy that could help prevent stone-throwing by young children. According to TIME magazine, Hettinger said, "It started as a way of promoting peace, and then I went on to find something that was very calming." She was awarded a patent in 1997 and took it to Hasbro, but they passed. Her patent expired in 2005. Today lots of manufacturers sell them.
So, back to your kids, Jodi. For fidgety kids (foot tappers, hair twirlers) and kids with stress, anxiety and attention disorders, it appears to calm them down and help them focus. For others, it can induce mindless distraction. The online magazine Education Week Teachers reports that 32 percent of high schools in the U.S. have banned the toys, and some schools ask that kids bring a note from their doctor if they plan on using them during class. Our suggestion? Go with your doc's advice.
Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Dr. Mike Roizen is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.