Children who have prescriptions for one or more asthma drugs -- which aim to prevent or calm asthma attacks -- have fewer visits to the emergency room for asthma than those who haven't been prescribed such medications, the study finds.
But the research also reveals that asthmatic African-American and urban children rush to the ER more frequently than other kids because of an asthma attack.
U-M pediatric researchers will present the findings at the annual joint meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Seattle on May 6, which by coincidence is also World Asthma Day.
The study is based on data from more than 19,000 children with asthma who were enrolled in Michigan's Medicaid program in the year 2001.
The researchers looked at the frequency of children's asthma-related ER visits, and how rates of ER visits vary by age, gender, race, urban location, disability status and prescriptions for fast-acting "rescue" medications as well as long-term preventive asthma drugs. Sixteen percent of the children had no prescription for a rescue drug.
"We found that use of asthma medications was directly associated with lower rates of ER visits for asthma, and that those kids who have no prescriptions on record are more frequent visitors to the emergency department," says U-M pediatric research investigator and lead author Kevin J. Dombkowski, Dr.PH.
He continues, "Although we couldn't peer into these children's homes to see if they were actually using their inhalers, we hope this study will help prompt increased awareness of how long-term management of asthma can be achieved through appropriate use of medications, and studies to further evaluate the effect of medication use on ER visits."