Thirteen year-old Broadway actress Laurel Griggs died of a massive asthma attack last week.
Griggs was rushed to a New York City hospital but doctors were unable to revive her after the attack.
Dying from asthma is rare, but it can kill.
Laurel’s father Andy Griggs told Page Six that his daughter — a Broadway actress who starred alongside Scarlett Johansson in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at age 6 and made appearances on Saturday Night Live — was born with asthma and took medication for it. He also said about three years ago, Laurel experienced a serious attack, making her parents vigilant about their daughter’s health.
Asthma is a disease that affects your lungs. It causes repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and nighttime or early morning coughing. Asthma can be controlled by taking medicine and avoiding the triggers that can cause an attack.
The American Lung Association states that more than 26 million Americans have asthma, and that includes 6.1 million children.
Dr. Zoe Rosenbaum, an allergist-immunologist, at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, said asthma is often grouped with allergies.
“Sometimes there is a predisposition towards allergies and asthma in families,” she said.
Advances in treatment in recent years have generally made asthma into a manageable chronic condition, although as the case of Laurel Griggs shows, this is not always the case.
“The fact that we think of it as a manageable disease is largely due to the fact that we have effective medications,” Dr. Rosenbaum said.
One particular type of treatment for severe asthma that Dr. Rosenbaum and Lahey Hospital & Medical Center offers is a group of medications called biologics. These are injection medications that target different parts of the inflammatory pathway of asthma.
“Different people have different triggers and different kinds of inflammation in the airway,” she said.
Some triggers include infections, chemicals, dust mites, air quality, smoke and even exercise.
One can get diagnosed at anytime. Often a child’s asthma presents when he or she is sick and the child wheezes when breathing. Many kids grow out of it. But it’s possible to have adult onset too.
Massive acute attacks are rare, but do happen. Most asthma attacks linger for awhile and get progressively worse.
Asthma is a chronic condition that must be regularly managed with a doctor.
“It is important to keep it controlled, so if your asthma is triggered, there is a plan in place with your doctor,” Dr. Rosenbaum said.
For more information on asthma and allergies, speak with your health care provider.