Health Team

Duke Studies Asthma, Acid Reflux Link in Kids

Posted April 7, 2008 2:10 p.m. EDT
Updated April 7, 2008 10:21 p.m. EDT

— Children love to play, but asthma can keep them out of the game. Many children have an added problem, acid reflux, which may make their asthma worse.

Duke researchers, along with a national study, are looking for the link.

Tameka Bullock said she can't remember when her 7-year-old son, Chris, hasn’t had problems breathing.

“You could just tell that he wasn't getting enough air, just as a small baby,” she said.

His problems often pop up at play time.

“I start coughing and I have to stop running,” Chris said.

He is now part of a national trial at Duke because he has had another problem: acid reflux or GERD – when acid leaves the stomach and irritates the lining of the esophagus. It can even causing vomiting.

The reflux-and-asthma combination is common enough that doctors want to know if there's a connection.

“(We want to know) whether we need to worry about GERD as a trigger for asthma, whether we need to treat GERD and which kids we ought to treat,” said Dr. Larry Williams, a Duke pediatrician.

Some kids get a study drug to neutralize stomach acid. Others get a placebo. They all keep daily diaries and other homework to track their asthma symptoms.

What researchers learn may lead to better control of asthma symptoms for kids. Chris' parents say they're for anything that might help him and others with asthma lead more normal and active lives.

Duke is still looking for young study participants for the trial. Candidates must be 5 to 17 years old, taking daily asthma medications and exhibit asthma symptoms several times a week. Call Nurse Coordinator Ginny Dudek at 919-684-0191 or e-mail