"Mom is the one who must implement the doctor's recommendations for treatment and follow-up, and if she is depressed she can't do it well, so the child will suffer," says lead investigator Michiko Otsuki, Ph.D., a behavioral medicine fellow at Johns Hopkins at the time of the study, now at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.
Investigators say their findings should prompt pediatricians who treat children with asthma to pay close attention to the child's primary caregiver whether or not it is the mother and screen and refer them for treatment if needed.
"We ask these parents if they are smokers all the time, so maybe it's time to start asking them if they are coping well emotionally," said co-investigator Arlene Butz, Sc.D., a pediatric asthma specialist at Johns Hopkins Children's Center. "Doctors are trained to pick up on subtle clues, so if they see a red flag in mom, they should follow-up with a depression screener and referral if needed."
Treating depressed mothers whose children are at high-risk for asthma complications will likely benefit both mother and child, researchers say, while providing a clear treatment target to help reduce the burden of asthma in the United States. Asthma is the country's leading pediatric chronic illness, affecting 6.5 million children under the age of 18, according to the CDC.
The Hopkins study included only mothers but investigators believe a similar pattern would emerge regardless of who the primary caregiver is.
Researchers caution that the mothers in their study were screened for depression with a standard questionnaire, which is a reliable detector of symptoms but
|Contact: Ekaterina Pesheva|
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions