Children with Asthma

Asthma is one of the most chronic serious diseases in children and adolescents, affecting nearly nine million children under the age of 18. Fifty to 80% of children with asthma develop the symptoms of asthma before the age of five. Children suffering from asthma also miss more than 10 million school days each year due to complications of the disease. Asthma symptoms can result in poor academic performance, anxiety and further isolation from peers if not properly managed.

Asthma occurs when the main air passages of the lungs, the bronchial tubes, become inflamed. The muscles of the bronchial walls tighten and extra mucus is produced, causing the airways to narrow. The result could range from frequent wheezing with a cough to severe difficulty in breathing. In some cases, breathing may be so labored, that an asthma attack becomes life-threatening.

The most common form of asthma among children is allergic asthma. In this form, otherwise harmless allergens, such as dust mites, cat and dog dander or other environmental allergens, can trigger an asthma attack.

In addition to allergy symptoms brought on by exposure to these allergens-watery eyes, sneezing and itching-asthmatics can experience severe airway constriction. If left untreated, the disease can escalate to dangerous proportions, even resulting in trips to the emergency room to restore normal breathing. Asthma also can have a non-allergic component and be triggered by cold, polluted air or exercise. The variety of triggers, both allergic and non-allergic, that surround us makes asthma nearly a universal risk for millions of people.

Who is at risk to develop asthma?

Children whose immune systems are not fully developed are most at risk for developing the disease. However, there are no clear markers to predict who will develop asthma and who will not.
Studies have shown that factors associated with the onset of asthma symptoms in children include:

  • Infants and young children who wheeze with viral upper respiratory infections.
  • Allergies. The relationship between asthma and allergies is very strong. If your child has allergies, be on the alert for potential signs of childhood asthma. 
  • A family history of asthma and/or allergy. 
  • Prenatal exposure to tobacco smoke and allergens.
  • Coming up with an asthma action plan with your child’s doctor is a great way to help keep your child's asthma under control.

After developing the plan with your child’s doctor, you’ll have a better understanding of

  • When to use a controller medicine, when to add a quick-relief medicine, and when to get immediate help from a doctor.
  • The signs and symptoms during each stage of your child’s action plan.
  • Common triggers to avoid.

The first step in managing your child’s asthma is understanding what triggers could affect him or her. Although triggers are not always obvious, some of the more common asthma triggers include airborne allergens, irritants, and other factors such as...


Asthma Triggers

  • Grass, tree, and weed pollens
  • Airborne molds
  • Dust mites
  • Foods or food additives
  • Animal dander
  • Cockroach droppings
  • Strong odors/perfumes
  • Cooking fumes
  • Aerosol sprays

Other Common Triggers

  • Cigarette smoke
  • Wood/fireplace smoke
  • Cold air
  • Colds or viral infections
  • Exercise
  • Prolonged laughing or crying
  • Reflux disease/heartburn
  • Medications
  • Emotional distress

Asthma symptoms are often worse in the morning and late at night. In between asthmatic episodes symptoms have been known to disappear or improve but that does not mean the asthma has gone away. Symptoms can be brought on by a number of different triggers such as: respiratory infections, exercise, stress, cold air and outdoor allergens such as pollen, mold, animal dander or dust mites. Not all children who have the disease exhibit symptoms each and every day. 

Watch for the following key symptoms in your child:

  • Coughing. This could be constant or just intermittent.
  • Wheezing or a whistling sounds audible when your child exhales. 
  • Shortness of breath or rapid breathing. This may or may not be associated with exercise. 
  • Chest tightness. A young child may say his/her chest "hurts" or "feels funny" 
  • Fatigue. Your child may slow down, stop playing or become easily irritated. 
  • Infants may have problems feeding and may grunt during suckling. 
  • Older children may avoid activities such as sports or sleep overs. 
  • A child may have problems sleeping because of nighttime coughing or difficulty breathing

Patterns of asthma symptoms are important. Pay close attention to when the asthma occurs.
  • Does it occur? 
  • At night or early morning? 
  • During or after exercise? 
  • Seasonally? 
  • After laughing or crying? 
  • When exposed to possible asthma triggers at home, school or day care? 
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites.

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