Before she was a year old, Mia Fritsch-Anderson of Chicago was diagnosed with severe asthma, a condition of the lungs that impacts the ability to breathe. Following a number of late-night trips to the emergency room and many visits to the pediatrician's office, the family consulted an asthma and allergy specialist. Her diagnosis allowed the family to start identifying which medicines and treatments could help better manage Mia's asthma.
Mia's mother, Alicia, knows firsthand what a challenge asthma can be for young people. Alicia was diagnosed with asthma in college after she woke up one morning and couldn't breathe. "I thought I had a really bad cold because I couldn't catch my breath, but it turns out I had developed asthma."
Like many other moms, when Alicia learned that Mia had severe asthma, she started learning everything she could to help her daughter. But she didn't stop with research – she took action.
"I signed up for a marathon and later an Ironman so that I could raise awareness and money for the Respiratory Health Association, which supports people who are living with asthma and other lung diseases," says Alicia. "It was also good for Mia to see people with asthma doing physically demanding activities, such as marathons and triathlons. My husband also volunteers with the Skyline plunge, an athletic charity event that raises funds for the Respiratory Health Association."
Personalized medicine tackles asthma
The good news is there may be new medicines available in the future for people with severe asthma. Personalized medicine, a health care approach that helps physicians with identifying tailored treatment options, is typically associated with cancer. Now, the personalized medicine approach is being explored in the area of asthma: Abbott and AstraZeneca are partnering to develop companion diagnostic blood tests to see if people with severe, inadequately controlled asthma may benefit from a medication in development.
"Medical advances like these are needed to give people the freedom to live their lives without the constant fear and limitations associated with severe asthma," said Beth McQuiston, M.D., a licensed physician and medical director, Diagnostics, Abbott. "Our work with AstraZeneca is an important step in providing doctors with innovative tests and medicines to help doctors give those with severe asthma another treatment option."
Although Mia's severe asthma is better controlled than before, Alicia hopes that, in the future as her daughter gets older, Mia can benefit from the types of treatments currently in development. In the meantime, about two years ago, Mia achieved an important milestone – she was able to sleep through the night without interrupted breathing. And in the past year, the family made only one visit to the emergency room, compared to six the year before. These health improvements let the pre-teen focus on what matters to her most: enjoying school, competitive Irish dance, skiing, and choir as well as teaching other kids about asthma and how to use their inhalers.
"While we have to continually stay on top of Mia’s asthma—and every now and then we have a setback—when you see Mia ski or dance, you wouldn't know she has a breathing issue, because she's like anyone else."
To learn more about asthma and how to manage it, visit the American Lung Association at www.lung.org and check out these resources:
Please note that the tests and medication mentioned in this article are in development and not commercially available.