Parent health sways views of asthmatic kids’ health

By Amy Norton

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Parents’ own chronic health problems may influence their perceptions of their asthmatic children’s well-being, a new study suggests.

The study, of more than 500 children with asthma, found that those whose parents had a chronic health problem tended to miss more school days. Their parents were also less likely than other parents to rate their child’s health as “very good.”

On average, children whose parents had a chronic disease missed one to two more days of school per year, the researches report in the journal Pediatrics.

The findings suggest that parents with chronic health conditions of their own may have “altered perceptions” of their children’s health, explained lead researcher Dr. Ellen A. Lipstein, of MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston.

These parents may, for example, be more likely to see their children as vulnerable, keeping them home from school more often or keeping them out of certain activities.

Lipstein and her colleagues based their results on a national survey of parents of 561 children aged 5 to 17 with asthma. Parents were asked to rate their child’s general health, anywhere from “poor” to “excellent.” They were also asked whether they had ever been diagnosed with any of a range of chronic diseases, including heart disease, asthma, diabetes and arthritis.

In general, the researchers found that when parents were chronically ill, their children tended to miss more school — even when the children’s asthma severity was taken into account. These parents were also less likely to grade their child’s health as “very good” or “excellent.”

Overall, 62 percent described their child’s health this way, versus three-quarters of parents without a chronic health condition.

The implication, Lipstein told Reuters Health, is that both parents and doctors should be aware that parents’ own health may influence their perceptions of their children’s asthma.

She recommended that parents be open with their pediatrician about their own health and family history of any major medical conditions.

Parents who are unsure about managing their child’s asthma — uncertain, for example, about when their child should stay home from school — should bring their concerns to their doctor, Lipstein said.

SOURCE: Pediatrics, January 2009.

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