Reports From the Field: Common cold causes asthma emergencies

For people with asthma, the viral infections that cause the common cold are a major cause of health emergencies, including hospitalizations, a study at the University of Iowa Health Care has concluded.

Children ages 5 and younger with asthma have more than twice as many hospitalizations as older children with asthma and five times as many as adolescents and adults with the condition, the researchers say.

"Findings over the past 15 years have contributed to a strategy to prevent viral respiratory illnesses that cause the common cold from progressing to acute asthma episodes requiring urgent care," says Miles Weinberger, MD, University of Iowa professor of pediatrics and guest editor of "Treatment for Viral Respiratory Infection-Induced Asthma in Young Children," a supplement to the February 2003 issue of Journal of Pediatrics (2003; 142:S1-S44).

Weinberger recommends instructing parents to use an oral anti-inflammatory medication when a cold first appears but before the actual difficulty in breathing develops.

Parents should be instructed to begin the medication before the breathing is severely affected because the steroid requires as much as a full day for maximum effect, he says.