By Dr. Larry Chiaramonte
It’s funny—not “ha ha” funny, but the other kind—how many times asthma appears in news stories about celebrities behaving badly. When Paris Hilton was arrested for cocaine possession, there was asthma medication in her purse. Lindsay Lohan attributes at least some of her problems to asthma that started when she was two. Charlie Sheen—oh wait a minute; he blamed his trashing of a hotel room on an “allergic reaction” to “medication.”
Now, two British TV personalities are engaged in another asthma-centered war of words. “She” (someone I have never heard of) claims “he” (someone else I’d never heard of) was prone to “mood swings brought on by the drugs [steroids].”
I don’t want to excuse bad behavior, especially criminal behavior, but growing up with asthma can create problems. So can the relief supplied by medication. The kind of ‘roid rage described by the complaining girlfriend in the U.K. doesn’t sound like inhaled corticosteroids to me, it sounds like the other kind, anabolic steroids, and the journalists don’t seem to know enough to make that distinction. But I’m not his doctor.
What I do know is that as with all chronic diseases, there are management issues for all the members of the family, not just the child with the illness. As I wrote on this website some time ago, a kid with asthma has “spent his whole life worried about coughing and wheezing and worse. He hasn’t been able to lead a normal life. Suddenly, he has some relief. He’s energized. He’s more ‘normal’ than he’s ever been. Isn’t it conceivable that some of the ‘problem’ is from adjustment?”
I am a firm advocate of family therapy as an adjunct treatment for asthma. The medication controls chronic inflammation. It is life saving. But family therapy is quality of life saving. The two should go together.