Before They Were Stars: Celebs Who Overcame Childhood Illnesses, Abuse and More

What Halle, Padma and Nicole did, and how you can help your kids get through it (18 Photos)

Melissa F. Pheterson on Sep 29, 2011 at 6:07PM

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Before They Were Stars: Celebs Who Overcame Childhood Illnesses, Abuse and More

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Jackie Joyner-Kersee: Asthma

The track and field Olympian was diagnosed with asthma as a college freshman at age 18. Despite repeated visits to the emergency room, she “slacked off” on her medication until suffering a near-fatal asthma attack at 31. “It was like a pillow had been shoved over my face,” she told USA Today in 2002. “I’ll never forget the panic of being completely unable to breathe, no matter how hard I tried.”

Advice for parents: An asthma attack occurs when the small airways in your child’s lungs become inflamed and narrowed. “Daily preventive medications, if used consistently, can improve symptoms and allow children to be active and healthy,” says Jill Halterman, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “Making them part of your child’s daily routine, like right before brushing their teeth every morning, can help both of you remember to take them every day.” It’s also important for your child to avoid exposure to triggers like pet dander and cigarette smoke, which can make symptoms worse. “All homes and cars of children with asthma should be kept smoke-free.”

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