University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland

I'm Dr. Mary Beth Bollinger, a specialist in pediatric allergy and asthma at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children. We are one of the few hospitals in the country to be designated as a center of excellence for pediatric asthma by the Joint Commission -- a national organization that accredits hospitals.

Asthma is the number one reason for children to miss school and to go to the emergency room. Here in Baltimore and other large cities, asthma is more common among school children than in many other parts of the country. But we've found that with proper evaluation and treatment, as well as ongoing care, children don't have to suffer with asthma. There are many safe, effective medications now available to control symptoms and prevent attacks.

We have a comprehensive program to test and treat children who have asthma and allergies, not just at our hospital, but also out in the community. Our mobile asthma clinic called the Breathmobile travels to Baltimore city schools to provide free, ongoing care to underserved children. This program is the only one of its kind on the East Coast.

Allergies are a major cause of asthma. Identifying and treating them can also help control asthma.

Research is also a key focus of our work. For example, we have studied the seasonal peaks of asthma related hospital admissions for children in Maryland and we found a five-fold increase in those admissions during the fall. This information has helped us to better treat our patients during those key times of year.

We are also looking at high rates of asthma in African-American and Hispanic children and addressing barriers to care in these high-risk populations. We are studying methods to improve communication between healthcare providers and families of children with asthma and we are looking at new methods to teach other healthcare professionals about asthma by developing and evaluating an online asthma training program.

Although there's no cure for asthma, it can be controlled effectively. With the right preventive treatment and education, children with asthma can lead normal, active lives, attend school, play sports and sleep well without having symptoms.

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