Most asthma treatments involve using medication to open the airways and teaching children better ways to breathe during an asthma attack. Because difficulty breathing can be scary, Anna L. Marsland, PhD, RN, associate professor of psychology and nursing at the University of Pittsburgh wanted to find out whether helping children to manage their stress could also help to improve their asthma symptoms.

In a small study called “I Can Cope,” trained interviewers met with students with asthma in third through eighth grade at the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh Charter School. Meeting with the children in their school allowed for greater ease of participation than meeting in a community-based clinic. Each week for six weeks, students were presented with a different lesson teaching them ways to manage their stress. The lessons focused on breathing better, learning how to relax and changing thoughts and feelings that can lead to stress. At the end of the program, students with asthma showed a decrease in stress and improvements in how their lungs worked.

The success of this smaller study at the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh Charter School is now allowing researchers to perform a larger study at Propel and Urban League schools. In this new study, children will receive either the “I Can Cope” asthma treatment or an education-only asthma treatment called “Open Airways.” Researchers want to see whether children in these two groups experience more asthma relief than children who do not receive any training. If this new study is as successful as the test study, “I Can Cope” could mean that children with asthma can benefit from stress management therapy in a school location.

If you’d like more information about the “I Can Cope” study, please contact Amanda at 412-324-2431.

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