Asthma In Children
Asthma is caused by swelling (inflammation) in the airways. During an asthma attack, the muscles surrounding the airways tighten. The lining of the air passages swells. Less air is able to pass through as a result.
Asthma is often seen in children. It is a leading cause of missed school days and hospital visits for children. An allergic reaction is a key part of asthma in children. Asthma & Allergies often occur together.
In children who have sensitive airways, asthma symptoms can be triggered by breathing in substances called allergens or triggers
Common Asthma Triggers
- Animals (hair or dander)
- Dust, mold, and pollen
- Aspirin and other medicines
- Changes in weather (most often cold weather)
- Chemicals in the air or in food
- Tobacco smoke
- Strong emotions
- Viral infections, such as the common cold
Breathing problems are common. They can include:
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling out of breath
- Gasping for air
- Trouble breathing out (exhaling)
- Breathing faster than normal
When the child is having a hard time breathing, the skin of the chest and neck may suck inward. Other symptoms of asthma in children include:
- Coughing that sometimes wakes the child up at night (it may be the only symptom)
- Dark bags under the eyes
- Feeling tired
- Tightness in the chest
- A whistling sound made when breathing (wheezing). You may notice it more when the child breathes out.
Your child's asthma symptoms may vary. Symptoms may appear often or develop only when triggers are present. Some children are more likely to have asthma symptoms at night.
You and your child's doctors should work together as a team to create and carry out an asthma action plan.
This plan will tell you how to:
The plan should also tell you when to call the nurse or doctor. It is important to know what questions to ask your child's doctor.
- Give the school staff your asthma action plan so they know how to take care of your child's asthma.
- Find out how to let your child take medicine during school hours. (You may need to sign a consent form.)
- Having asthma does not mean your child cannot exercise. Coaches, gym teachers, and your child should know what to do if your child has asthma symptoms caused by exercise.
There are two basic kinds of medicine used to treat asthma.
Long-term control drugs are taken every day to prevent asthma symptoms. Your child should take these medicines even if no symptoms are present. Some children may need more than one long-term control medicine.
Types of long-term control medicines include:
- Inhaled steroids (these are usually the first choice of treatment)
- Long-acting bronchodilators (these are almost always used with inhaled steroids)
- Leukotriene inhibitors
- Cromolyn sodium
Quick relief or rescue asthma drugs work fast to control asthma symptoms. Children take them when they are coughing, wheezing, having trouble breathing, or having an asthma attack.
Some of your child's asthma medicines can be taken using an inhaler.
- Children who use an inhaler should use a spacer device. This helps them get the medicine into the lungs properly.
- If your child uses the inhaler the wrong way, less medicine gets into the lungs. Have your health care provider show your child how to correctly use an inhaler.
- Younger children can use a nebulizer instead of an inhaler to take their medicine. A nebulizer turns asthma medicine into a mist.
Getting Rid Of Asthma Triggers
It is important to know your child's asthma triggers. Avoiding them is the first step toward helping your child feel better.
Keep pets outdoors, or at least away from the child's bedroom.
No one should smoke in a house or around a child with asthma.
- Getting rid of tobacco smoke in the home is the single most important thing a family can do to help a child with asthma.
- Smoking outside the house is not enough. Family members and visitors who smoke carry the smoke inside on their clothes and hair. This can trigger asthma symptoms.
- Do not use indoor fireplaces.
Keep the house clean. Keep food in containers and out of bedrooms. This helps reduce the possibility of cockroaches, which can trigger asthma attacks. Cleaning products in the home should be unscented.
Monitor Your Child's Asthma
Checking peak flow is one of the best ways to control asthma. It can help you keep your child's asthma from getting worse. Asthma attacks usually do NOT happen without warning.
Children under age 5 may not be able to use a peak flow meter well enough for it to be helpful. However, a child should start using the peak flow meter at a young age to get used to it. An adult should always watch for a child's asthma symptoms.