There is a childhood obesity epidemic in the US with roughly 1 in 5 children considered obese. Kids are more sedentary, playing video games, and not going outside to play. COVID-19 restrictions and fears have magnified many of the risk factors for obesity in children. Obesity is defined as body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to the 95th percentile and overweight is a BMI from the 85th to 94th percentile. Body mass index is calculated by dividing your child’s weight in kg by height squared. Your doctor can review your child’s height, weight, and BMI with you at your next office visit.
For many years, the numbers of children with asthma and obesity has risen, but until recently it has been unclear if the two were related in children. A new study has shown obesity is directly related to risk for asthma, and reducing obesity will likely reduce asthma prevalence. Obese children with asthma have reduced response to inhaled corticosteroids making their asthma more difficult to control. The exact reasons for this are not known, but some reported explanations include altered lung function with obesity, increased risk for reflux, hormonal changes, and systemic inflammation seen with obesity. Obesity has been associated with depression. Some children may be less likely to follow through with their asthma medications due to depression.
Some children who are obese do not have asthma, although they have shortness of breath with activity. Cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET) evaluates heart, lung, and metabolic effort to determine the origin of difficulty breathing. During testing, children perform vigorous activity while heart and lung function is measured. Children with and without asthma may report difficulty breathing because they are not used to exercising or deconditioned. As they become more comfortable and fit, their breathlessness with exercise should improve. CPET is important to help differentiate if a child has a heart issue or asthma. Below is a list of recommendations on ways you can wean your child back to healthy levels.
- Diets are not recommended for any children. Instead, healthy eating choices and more movement should be encouraged to control weight symptoms.
- Children should exercise for at least 30 minutes 5 days per week. Exercise can be dancing, a video game with movement, or an organized team sport. Most importantly, it should be fun. Kids with asthma can exercise safely with the right medications.
- Children can do something we as adults cannot, grow taller. As they grow and stretch out, this will help resolve some of their weight concerns.
- Make sure you speak with your Pediatrician about how to help your child achieve a healthy weight. Teaching them healthy eating and exercise habits while they are young is important and knowledge useful for a lifetime.
Note: Please do not use this information as professional advice. We advise you to seek opinions from a medical professional