The Adaptive Effect of Illness-Specific Panic-Fear on Asthma Outcomes in Mexican and Puerto Rican Children

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Objective: To examine baseline measures of illness-specific panic-fear (ie, the level of anxiety experienced specifically during asthma exacerbations) as a protective factor in pediatric asthma outcomes over a 1-year period. Study design: The sample comprised 267 children (Mexican, n = 188; Puerto Rican, n = 79; age 5-12 years) from a longitudinal observational study conducted in Phoenix, AZ and Bronx, NY. Assessments were done at baseline and 3, 6, 9, and 12 months. The Childhood Asthma Symptom Checklist was administered at baseline to children and caregivers to assess children's illness-specific panic-fear. Asthma outcome variables quantified longitudinally included pulmonary function, the Asthma Control Test, acute healthcare utilization, and medication adherence, measured by devices attached to inhaled corticosteroids. Results: Child report of illness-specific panic-fear at baseline predicted higher forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) % across 1-year follow-up in Mexican children (β = 0.17, P = .02), better asthma control in Puerto Rican children (β = 0.45, P = .007), and less acute healthcare utilization for asthma in both groups (Mexicans: β = −0.39, P = .03; Puerto Ricans: β = −0.47, P = .02). Caregiver report of child panic-fear predicted higher FEV1% in Mexican (β = 0.30; P = .02) and Puerto Rican (β = 0.19; P = .05) children. Panic-fear was not related to medication adherence. Conclusions: Illness-specific panic-fear had beneficial effects on asthma outcomes in both groups of Latino children. The heightened vigilance associated with illness-specific panic-fear may lead children to be more aware of their asthma symptoms and lead to better strategies for asthma management.

Publication Title

Journal of Pediatrics