Thursday, August 15, 2013

1976: How to treat asthma?

By 1976 asthma physicians have a much better grip on this disease called asthma.  The age old theory that an asthma attacks occur when one is exposed to an asthma trigger is now engraved in stone.  The reaction is contraction of the airways that results in air trapping and trouble breathing.  The other age old theory that asthma is all in your head, starts to fade away.

Yet it's still a very stressful time for asthmatic children and their parents.  There are still mysteries about the disease, and fears that medicines that help adults will harm children.  The basic plan of attack is to treat acute symptoms.  If you are having an attack you're to use your rescue inhaler (which was Alupent back then) and to start taking your inhaled corticosteroid (which was beclomethasone).  

There was a fear abounding that if you took your inhaled steroid every day it would cause the same side effects that taking systemic steroids cause.  So I imagine it was based on this fear that one of my discharge papers from a hospital discharge in 1981 was this:  "Use your Vanceril (Belclomethasone) until you start to feel better, and then use it when you have trouble breathing." 

There were other medicines, such as theophylline and Alupent syrup.  These were the medicines I was prescribed.  My doctors were probably scared that my heart wouldn't be able to take the Alupent, so they never prescribed it for me.  I think this was a grave mistake that resulted in many miserable nights for me and other asthmatics like me.  

Because doctors were scared, this lead many moms and dads to go to bed at night worried that they would have to get up in the night to watch their child suffer.  And there were asthmatics like me who suffered and didn't tell their parents because they didn't want to bother them.  Or, perhaps we suffered alone because we were simply children and didn't know any better.  We were so used to having asthma symptoms it was just a normal part of life for us.  

I think the staff of Prevention Magazine say it best when they wrote the following (1, page 124):
In hundreds of thousands of homes across the United States, parents go to bed each night fully aware that they might be awakened in the hours before dawn by a child wheezing and gasping for breath.  No matter how experienced they become in the ways of an asthmatic child, parents never really get over the terror of these moments.  To forestall further asthma attacks, they will consult one doctor after another, move out of the state, buy expensive drugs and special foods.  They reluctantly forbid their child to play outdoor games and veto the purchase of a family pet that could trigger future attacks.  
Yet parents who are poorly educated missed the signs not realizing their lack of asthma wisdom is the problem.  Doctors are unable to help because they are likewise in the dark regarding the latest research. At this time, the most well educated physicians were those associated with research hospitals such as National Jewish Hospital/ National Asthma Center (NJH/NAC) in Denver, Colorado.

The wisdom of this era was close to being complete, but not quite there yet.  In order get the best asthma relief, asthmatics would have to visit one of the leading asthma hospitals, such as NJH/NAC.  Regional doctors simply weren't up to speed, and not quite able to help parents help their children to tackle the asthma beast.

In the meantime, for those asthmatics unable to gain control by seeing a regional physician, and those unable to seek the asthma experts research hospitals, they continued to suffer.  As they are forced to watch their children suffer, parents suffer to.

References:
  1. "The Encyclopedia of Common Diseases," by the staff of Prevention Magazine, "What makes children asthmatic?" 1976, United States, page 124

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