by: Diana Davis Updated:
ATLANTA, Ga. - The frigid metro Atlanta temperatures Monday and Tuesday are a real health threat to children with asthma, doctors say.
Channel 2's Diana Davis reports it can make getting a breath difficult enough to land them in the hospital. Santika Lawrence, 14, has been in the hospital four times for asthma attacks. Cold weather makes her condition worse.
"My chest starts getting tight; it starts to hurt really badly," she said.
The breathing tubes of healthy patients are wide open, but in kids with asthma, cold weather and other triggers can narrow them and tighten them, making it difficult to breathe.
"And that's what causes their chest to get tight and causes them to cough. Once they get triggered by the cold air it can just continue until it becomes a severe asthma exacerbation," said Jodie Rodriquez, a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practionier at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
On some occasions, Lawrence's attacks have been severe enough to land her in the hospital.
That's why she and her parents are so careful in weather like this.
"It's cold and I just have to have a big old coat on. It's been hard with this cold weather, "Lawrence said. "When it gets really cold outside like it was this morning she's unable to go outside – period."
10 percent of metro Atlanta kids have asthma. It's even more common in low-income areas.
One of the reasons asthma specialists say the decision to close so many schools this week was a good call when it comes to kids' health.
"To honest with you, we're not prepared. I wish that everybody had winter coats, scarves and gloves and didn't have to stay at a bus stop, but the fact of the matter is it can be pretty severe for kids who have respiratory problems to be standing out at a bus stop," Rodriguez explained.
Although it's supposed to warm up to the 40s for the next few days, the temperatures are still cold enough to cause a medical emergency for kids with asthma.