I remember putting my stethoscope to her chest as part of a physical exam in weight management clinic and barely being able to hear her breath sounds — except for her slight scattered wheezing. I asked her to take a deep breath, and her chest hardly moved.

She was 12 and had come for a visit with her parents to see about her weight. She was anxious, having trouble in school and not sleeping. I asked her if she felt she had trouble breathing, and she said she thought she’d been a little short of breath. So we talked about asthma and got her to our walk-in clinic for treatment and to our resident continuity clinic for an asthma plan.

Breathing. We all take it for granted. We may not even realize when we hold our breath in anticipation, speed up our breathing in the normal course of exercise or...

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