Asthma affects approximately seven million children/adolescents in the USA, with African-American children disproportionately affected. Breathing retraining techniques have been shown to improve asthma outcomes in adults, though research in youth is limited. The purpose of this pilot study was to test the feasibility and preliminary efficacy of a school-based randomized controlled trial of breathing retraining for asthma outcomes and anxiety symptoms in a sample of urban, African-American adolescents.
Adolescents were randomized into either the intervention group (20-min breathing retraining plus education) or control group (20-min standard education). Participants completed two study visits, one month apart. Asthma control, asthma quality of life and lung functioning (FEV1 and peak flow) were the primary outcomes, and state anxiety (pre-post the intervention) and trait anxiety (over the one-month period) were the secondary outcomes.
Thirty-three African-American adolescents participated in the study, with a 90% retention rate between visit 1 and visit 2. Asthma control and asthma quality of life, significantly improved over time (p ≤ 0.01) with no differences between intervention and control groups. State anxiety significantly decreased (p ≤ 0.01) immediately post intervention at both time points with no differences between groups. There were no significant differences found in lung functioning or trait anxiety over the one-month time period.
These preliminary results suggest that breathing retraining is a feasible, acceptable and potentially efficacious intervention (although no significant differences between groups were found) for improving asthma symptoms in urban adolescents with asthma in a school-based setting.