Asthma in Children
Asthma is a common childhood illness. It is the same lung disease that adults with asthma manage, but in children, symptoms may present a little differently. Pediatric asthma affects about 1 in every twelve children and can be a frightening experience if you don’t know what to watch out for.
What is Asthma?
PAsthma is a chronic conditions of the lungs that can affect airways. In children with asthma, the aitways react to certain triggers and cause complications such as:
- muscle tightening around the airways
- excess mucus production
Any of these three things can lead to coughing, difficulty breathing, and wheezing.
What Causes Asthma
Asthma can be caused by a variety of factors. Although we’re not entirely sure what causes asthma in children, most experts agree that it can be an inherited condition, due to an infection, or caused by environmental factors like poor air quality, cigarette smoke, or some other inhaled substance. In some cases, an asthma attack can arise without any apparent trigger.
Other causes might include:
- Exposure to dust
- Exposure to pet dander (cats, dogs, or other animals)
- Sensitivity to pollen
- Exposure to mold or mildew
- Sudden changes in weather
- Viral infections
Symptoms of Asthma
When we think of Asthma, we think of wheezing and difficulty breathing followed by the pump of an inhaler. However, there are other symptoms to be aware of, some of which may be less obvious to those unfamiliar with the condition, such as:
- A persistent cough
- Coughing spells that happen during exercise, or while laughing, crying, or playing.
- A cough that doesn’t abate after a viral infection
- Avoiding playtime or high energy sports and other activities
- Difficulty sleeping
- Rapid breathing
- Tightness in the chest or pain
- Shortness of breath
- Tight neck or chest muscles
- Difficulty eating or drinking
Asthma symptoms suddenly getting worse are called asthma attacks or flare-ups, and they are caused by an asthma trigger in your child’s lungs. Talk to your child’s pediatrician to develop an Asthma Action Plan and learn what signs and symptoms to look for during an asthma attack.
Can Children Outgrow Asthma?
Children are all affected differently when it comes to asthma throughout their lives. Many young children will wheeze when sick with a virus, but do not get asthma later in life. Children who wheeze persistently will get better during their teenage years. As far as outgrowing asthma, studies show that about half of the children who have asthma at a young age appear to outgrow it, although symptoms may appear every now and then later in life.
How is Asthma Treated?
Once an asthma diagnosis has been reached, your provider can begin to develop an Asthma Action Plan. As a patient-centered medical home, developing a comprehensive plan involves taking the entire patient into account. You and your pediatrician will discuss the best treatment options for your child. Typically, this will involve medications, as well as a plan to determine when you should seek more immediate medical attention.
Most pediatricians will recommend a daily anti-inflammatory medication or a bronchodilator delivered via inhaler, or by a nebulizer. Talk to your pediatrician to discover what option is right for your family.
Your Asthma Action Plan
It's important to speak to your child's pediatrician about creating an Asthma Action Plan. This plan should include the following:
- Your child's prescribed treatment and medications
- Steps to take when your child is having an asthma attack
- How to identify signs and symptoms of an asthma attack
- Asthma attack triggers for your child
- Emergency contact information
Your Asthma Action Plan shoulc be written down and kept in an obvious place such as the refridgerator door. A copy of this plan should also be distributed to anyone your child spends time with, such as their school, daycare, their babysitter, and their grandparent's house.
How to Avoid Asthma Triggers
While asthma symptoms may worsen or lessen over time, there are ways to reduce the chance of an asthma attack for your child. Avoiding triggers is a key component of managing childhood asthma. Triggers can be nearly anything, and some may not be as obvious as others.
Steps to take::
- Avoid cigarette smoke, especially in enclosed spaces like cars or homes
- Regularly vacuum and dust the house and areas where your child frequently plays
- Get an air filter
- Be aware of animal dander. If pet hair is a trigger, consider keeping pets out of your child’s room and play areas.
- Regular pest control
- Use a dehumidifier to reduce damp air and prevent mold
- Avoid using highly scented products like soaps, candles, perfumes, etc.
- Learn about the air quality in your area
- Monitor fluctuations in your child’s weight
- Heartburn is a common symptom. Use OTC medications to help manage it.
- Keep track of your child’s inhaler
- Ensure your child’s vaccines are up to date.
Additionally, keeping up with regular well-child visits is the best way to help your child manage their symptoms. Your knowledgeable pediatrician will be able to give you up-to-date advice and help you make adjustments to your routine as necessary.
We’re Here to Help
Raleigh Group is here to help parents keep their children happy, healthy, and safe. Our experienced pediatricians in Memphis have treated many cases of asthma and are ready and prepared to help you build a plan that’s right for your child. Reach out today to schedule an appointment.