Poor asthma control in obese children may be overestimated because of enhanced perception of dyspnea

J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2013 Jan;1(1):39-45. doi: 10.1016/j.jaip.2012.10.006.


Background: Although studies in adults have shown a non-TH2 obese asthma phenotype, whether a similar phenotype exists in children is unclear.

Objective: We hypothesized that asthmatic children with obesity, defined as a body mass index above the 95th percentile for age and sex, would have poorer asthma control as well as decreased quality of life, increased health care utilization, and decreased pulmonary function measures as a function of increased TH1 versus TH2 polarization.

Methods: This study involved a post hoc analysis of cross sectional data from 269 children 6 to 17 years of age enrolled in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Severe Asthma Research Program. Children answered questionnaires and underwent spirometry, plethysmography, exhaled nitric oxide determination, and venipuncture for TH1/TH2 cytokine determination. Asthma control was defined according to national asthma treatment guidelines that are based on prespecified thresholds for lung function and symptom frequency.

Results: Fifty-eight children (22%) were overweight and 67(25%) were obese. Obese children did not have poorer asthma control but were more likely to report nonspecific symptoms such as dyspnea and nocturnal awakenings. Obese children did have decreased asthma-related quality of life and increased health care utilization, but this was not associated with airflow limitation. Instead, obese children had decreased functional residual capacity. A unique pattern of TH1 or TH2 polarization was not observed.

Conclusions: Poor asthma control in obese children with asthma may be overestimated because of enhanced perception of nonspecific symptoms such as dyspnea that results from altered mechanical properties of the chest wall. Careful assessment of physiologic as well as symptom-based measures is needed in the evaluation of obese children with respiratory symptoms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Multiple
  • Adolescent
  • Asthma / complications
  • Asthma / metabolism
  • Asthma / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Craniofacial Abnormalities
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Dyspnea / complications
  • Dyspnea / metabolism
  • Dyspnea / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Functional Residual Capacity / physiology
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / complications
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Lung / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Overweight / complications
  • Overweight / metabolism
  • Overweight / physiopathology
  • Pigmentation Disorders
  • Plethysmography / methods
  • Plethysmography / statistics & numerical data
  • Respiratory Function Tests / methods
  • Respiratory Function Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Spirometry / methods
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Cytokines
  • Nitric Oxide

Supplementary concepts

  • Oculocerebral hypopigmentation syndrome type Preus