LittlePeopleLogo     Asthma

 

DESCRIPTION (Diagnosis must be confirmed by a physician.)

• wheezing (a high-pitched whistling or musical sound while breathing out)

• recurrent attacks of wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and difficulty in breathing

 

CAUSE

The airways go into spasm and become narrow when allergic or irritating substances enter the lungs. These substances cause the lining of the airway to swell and produce mucus. Colds trigger most attacks, especially in younger children. If the asthma is due to pollens, it flares up only during a particular season. Asthma often occurs in children who have other allergic reactions such as eczema or hay fever. While emotional stress can occasionally trigger an attack, emotional problems are not the cause of asthma. Some common triggers are listed under the section titled "Prevention by Avoiding Asthma Triggers."

EXPECTED COURSE

Asthma attacks may be frightening, but they are treatable. Taking medicines early can shorten the course of an asthma attack and prevent hospitalization. When medicines are taken as directed, the lungs usually return to normal between attacks and there are no permanent changes. Asthma can be a long-lasting disease, but over half of the children who have asthma outgrow it during the teenage year. Asthma is a chronic (long term) disease that requires close follow-up by a physician.

1. Asthma inhalers

Inhalers will be prescribed by your doctor and need to be used as directed

2. Oral asthma medicine

Although inhaled medicines work best for asthma, some children also need to take medicines by mouth. Your doctor will decide what is the best treatment for your child.

3. Begin treatment early

Many children wheeze soon after they get coughs and colds. Start the asthma inhaler or oral medicine at the first sign of any coughing, shortness of breath or wheezing. The best "cough medicine" for a child with asthma is an asthma medicine, not a cough syrup. Always keep the medicine handy and take it with you on trips. If your supply runs low, obtain a refill.

4. Continuous asthma medicine

Most children with asthma need medicines only during asthma attacks. Children with the following symptoms usually need daily asthma medicines to allow them to engage in normal activities:

• three or more attacks of wheezing per week

• asthma flareups lasting several days

• the need for emergency room care despite proper use of an inhaler

• attacks that wake the child up at night

5. Fluids

Normal fluid intake keeps the lung mucus from becoming sticky. Encourage your child to drink adequate amounts of fluids. Clear fluids such as water are best.

6. Exercise-induced asthma

Exercise can trigger asthma. Most people with asthma get 10 to 15-minute attacks of coughing and wheezing when they exercise strenuously. Running, especially in cold air, is the main trigger.

This problem should not interfere with participation in most sports nor require a gym excuse. The symptoms can be prevented by using an inhaler 10 minutes before exercise. Children with asthma usually have no problems with swimming or sports not requiring rapid breathing.

7. Going to school

Asthma is not contagious. Your child should go to school during mild asthma attacks but avoid gym on these days. Arrange to have the asthma medicines available at school. If your child uses an inhaler, he should be permitted to keep it with him so he can use it whenever he needs it.

If your child can't go to school because of asthma, he should see a physician that same day for additional treatment.

8. Common mistakes

The most common mistake is delaying the start of prescribed asthma medicines or not replacing them when they run out. Nonprescription inhalers should not be used.

The most serious error is continuing to expose your child to an avoidable cause of asthma. Never allow smoking in your home; tobacco smoke can linger in the air for up to a week.

Don't panic during asthma attacks. Fear can make tight breathing worse, so try to remain calm and reassuring to your child.

Finally, don't let asthma restrict your child's activities, sports, or social life.

 

PREVENTION BY AVOIDING ASTHMA TRIGGERS

Try to discover and avoid the substances that trigger your child's asthma attacks. Avoid common triggers such as feather pillows, tobacco smoke and strong odors such as cologne. Indoor pets need a weekly bath to remove allergic particles. Learn how to dustproof your child's bedroom. Change the filters on your hot-air heating system or air conditioner monthly.

If your child wheezes after any contact with grass, pollen, weeds, or animals, pollen or animal dander remaining in the hair and clothing may keep the wheezing going. Your child should shower, wash his or her hair, and put on clean clothes.

CALL YOUR CHILD'S PHYSICIAN IMMEDIATELY IF:

• The wheezing is severe.

• The breathing is difficult.

• The wheezing is not improved after the second dose of asthma medicines.

• Your child needs to use the inhaler more than every 4 hours.

• The peak flow rate is less than 50% of the baseline level (personal best).

CALL YOUR CHILD'S PHYSICIAN WITHIN 24 HOURS IF:

• The wheezing is not completely gone in 5 days.

• You have other questions or concerns.