Kymberly Martin

Asthma and disability –a growing connection?

Children with developmental disabilities are more than twice as likely as other children to have asthma, according to a new study from the University of Texas Health Centre. The study found that about 16 per cent of children with disability have asthma while 6 per cent of children without disability have the condition, although the relationship between disability and asthma remains unclear.


According to study co-author, Professor George Delclos, both asthma and disabilities in children are important determinants of school absenteeism, with the subsequent risk of educational delays. “Asthma, when detected early and managed early, can less the impact it has on quality of life and missed school days,” he said.

The US study researchers surveyed families with children aged 0-17 with an asthma diagnosis plus a developmental disorder including: behavioral, motor disabilities, ADHD, autism, cerebral palsy, vision or hearing impairment, speech or cognitive disabilities or an unspecified developmental delay. Among those surveyed children who were hard of hearing or deaf, had the greatest likelihood of having asthma followed by those with cerebral palsy.

The findings of this study are in line with the results from Australia’s National Health Survey, which reveals that people living with disabilities or long-term or chronic conditions are much more likely to have asthma (19%) compared to those without (9.5%).


“Asthma is highly prevalent in Australia, it’s the fifth leading cause of non-fatal burden of disease and affects one in nine people,” Asthma Australia senior asthma educator, Gemma Crawley told F2L.

“The good news is that most people with asthma can achieve good asthma control with the right balance of medication and trigger reduction. People with a disability or their carers are encouraged to invest time in understanding asthma management so it doesn’t become an underlying health risk,” she said.

Asthma medications come in many different devices that may suit people with less ability to use their hands or less lung function, and some medications are more economical, particularly if they are on a pension card.

“To get to a point where asthma is well controlled, there may be some physical, environmental, or financial barriers that people need to navigate around,” Crawley said.

Asthma Australia asthma educators can help people with disability or their carer understand and confidently manage asthma or questions to ask a health professional. Call: 1800 278 462.

The research was first published in JAMA Network Open.