What To Do In An Emergency
Follow these steps if your child is having an asthma attack:
What Are Signs And Symptoms Of Asthma In Babies
In infants and toddlers, it may be hard for parents, and even doctors, to recognize signs and symptoms of asthma. Bronchial tubes in infants, toddlers and preschoolers are already small and narrow, and colds and other illnesses can iname airways, making them even smaller and more irritated.
Asthma symptoms will vary from child to child. The challenge with infants is that they cannot tell you how they are feeling.
Babies with asthma may experience difficulty breathing you may notice their bellies moving more when inhaling or exhaling and the nostrils of their nose may flare out. You might also notice:
- Wheezing or a whistling sound when breathing
- Fast, shallow breathing
- Blue tint to skin and fingernails
She Fails The Medical Tests
To diagnose older children, doctors use lung-function tests. At the doctors office, your child will take a deep breath and then exhale forcefully into a mouthpiece thats connected to a computer. This measures how much air she can inhale and exhale, as well as how much force she uses. Your doctor may also use a smaller low-tech device called a peak-flow meter that assesses exhalations. These tests dont hurt, but children have to be able to follow instructions in order for the tests to be accurate. Most 6-year-olds are up to it, and some children as young as 4 can be too.
Health-care providers will typically repeat these tests several times, often before and after medication, and compare a childs scores with those of other children who are a similar weight and height. Low scores mean that airways are blocked and help confirm the asthma diagnosis.
Another clue may come from a trial of medication. Doctors prescribe bronchodilators such as albuterol for many breathing problems, even colds. These rescue medications quickly cause your childs airway to expand and let in more air. But they also play a diagnostic role. When a doctor suspects your child has asthma, he may send her home with a rescue medication to see if using it for a few weeks reduces her symptoms. Ultimately, if your child is found to have asthma, you can take comfort in knowing that treatment is very effective and she will be coughing a lot less.
Avoiding Childhood Asthma Triggers
To prevent asthma attacks or to keep them from getting worse, focus on known triggers with steps like these:
- Donât let anyone smoke in your home or car.
- Clean bedding and carpets often to fight dust mites.
- Keep pets out of your childâs bedroom. An air filter can help with allergens.
- Get regular pest control to avoid cockroaches.
- Fix leaks and use dehumidifiers to prevent mold.
- Donât use scented cleaning products or candles.
- Check daily air quality reports in your area.
- Help your child stay at a healthy weight.
- If they have heartburn, keep it under control.
- If exercise is a trigger, your childâs doctor might have your child use the inhaler 20 minutes before the activity to keep their airways open.
- Make sure they get a flu shot every year.
Treatment For Asthma Emergencies In Children
An asthma attack can quickly become an asthma emergency, but if you take quick action, you can reduce the risk of this happening. So, if the symptoms of an asthma attack appear, follow your childs asthma action plan.
If your child is experiencing a severe or life-threatening asthma attack, call triple zero for an ambulance and then start asthma first aid.:
- Sit the child upright.
- Give 4 puffs of reliever medication , taking 4 breaths for each puff. Use a spacer and mask if one is available.
- Wait 4 minutes if the child still cannot breathe normally, give 4 more puffs.
- Continue to give 4 separate puffs of reliever medication, taking 4 breaths for each puff, every 4 minutes until the ambulance arrives.
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What Is Asthma In Children
Asthma is a long-term lung disease that causes your child’s airways to become sensitive to certain things . Several things happen to the airways when a child is exposed to triggers:
- The lining around the airways swell.
- The muscles around the airways tighten.
- The airways make more thick mucus than normal.
All of these things will cause the airways to narrow. This makes it difficult for air to go in and out of your childs lungs and causes the symptoms of asthma.
How Is Asthma Diagnosed In Older Children
Asthma is typically diagnosed with a medical exam and a test that measures the airflow in and out of the lungs. Your child may have one asthma symptom, or several of them. You may think its just a cold or bronchitis. If the symptoms come back, thats a clue your child might have asthma. In addition, symptoms may worsen when your child is around asthma triggers, such as irritants in the air or allergens like pollen, pet dander and dust mites.
Tell your childs pediatrician if anyone in your family has asthma, allergies or atopic dermatitis. These conditions often run in families if they run in yours, its more likely your child will have them.
You may be referred to an allergist who may perform skin or blood tests to see whether your child has any allergies that can trigger asthma symptoms. These tests can be done at any age. You can help your childs doctor by completing a childhood asthma control test prior to your visit.
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Asthma Action Plans For Children
An asthma action planis a clear written summary of instructions for when your childs asthma symptoms change. Everyone with asthma should have a personalised asthma action plan written by their doctor.
Your childs asthma action plan will tell you:
- how to recognise when your childs asthma is getting worse or an attack is developing, and the steps you should take to manage it
- symptoms that are serious, indicating a need for urgent medical help
- your childs asthma triggers.
Make sure you understand and can follow the asthma action plan from your doctor.
What’s An Asthma Emergency
As a parent of a child with asthma, you want to avoid the emergency room as much as possible. But it’s also important to know when going to the ER is the right choice.
Sometimes, kids with asthma need medical care very quickly. If any of these symptoms happen, see your doctor immediately, go to the ER, or call an ambulance:
- Your child has constant wheezing.
- Your child uses quick-relief medicines repeatedly for severe flare-up symptoms that don’t go away after 1520 minutes or return again quickly.
- Your child has a lasting cough that doesn’t respond to inhaled quick-relief medicine.
- There are changes in your child’s color, like bluish or gray lips and fingernails.
- Your child has trouble talking and can’t speak in full sentences.
- The areas below the ribs, between the ribs, and in the neck visibly pull in during inhalation .
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How To Notice The Signs Of Asthma In Your Child
There are various signs your child may have asthma, and these signs may also be found in unrelated illnesses. Pay attention to the following breathing-related issues, and make an appointment with your doctor to get a professional diagnosis.
- Breathlessness Look for fast breaths and body movements that indicate forced breathing.
- Coughing A recurring cough thats usually experienced in the morning or late at night.
- Wheezing Wheezing is a whistling sound that accompanies each breath.
- Chest Tightness This usually involves stomach or chest pains.
Notice and record when these signs of asthma are occurring. Symptoms are usually found in the morning or at night. There may also be an obvious trigger such as pollen that can indicate allergic asthma. If these symptoms keep on coming back, you must speak to your doctor.
What Causes Asthma In Infants And Toddlers
We still do not know what causes some people to get asthma. If a child has a family history of asthma or allergies, a specific allergy or had a mother who smoked during pregnancy, they have a higher chance of getting asthma early in life.
A respiratory virus, an illness that occurs in the lungs, is one of the most common causes of asthma symptoms in children 5 years old and younger. Although both adults and children experience respiratory infections, children have more of them. Some preschool children get viral infections often. At least half of children with asthma show some sign of it before the age of 5. Viruses are the most common cause of acute asthma episodes in infants 6 months old or younger.
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Asthma Emergencies In Children
Symptoms of an asthma attack can worsen and develop into an asthma emergency. To prepare for an asthma emergency, make sure your childs doctor has written an asthma action plan for your child.
Have a copy of your childs asthma action plan pinned up somewhere easy to access at home, and send a copy to anyone who cares for your child, including their school, kinder, childcare service, family members and friends. You may like to take a photo of their asthma action plan so you always have a copy with you.
What Are The Symptoms Of Asthma In Children
The symptoms of asthma in children include
- Chest tightness
- Wheezing, which causes a whistling sound when they breathe out
- Trouble eating or sucking
These symptoms can range from mild to severe. They may happen often or only once in a while.
When children have an asthma attack, their symptoms get much worse. The attacks may come on gradually or suddenly. Sometimes they can be life-threatening. Warning signs of a severe attack include severe coughing, serious breathing problems, and turning very pale or blue in the face, lips and/or fingernails. If your child has those symptoms, get medical help right away.
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What To Expect When You Visit The Doctor
Your doctor may ask whether you have any family history of asthma, eczema or hay fever.
In children, doctors assess the severity of the asthma based on the pattern and frequency of the symptoms.
Lung function tests are difficult to perform in children younger than 5 years and so are usually only used to diagnose and assess severity in children 5 years and older.
It is recommended that a paediatrician or paediatric respiratory specialist diagnose and manage asthma in infants under 12 months. If your infant is wheezing your doctor should refer to you one of these specialists.
How Can Er Visits Be Less Stressful
Planning can make trips to the ER less stressful for you and your child. Here are some tips to try:
- Know the location of your closest ER. If there’s a children’s hospital ER nearby, go there and have the address and phone number handy .
- If you have other kids, try to make arrangements with a relative or other caregiver who can take them in an emergency. But don’t let the lack of a babysitter delay your trip to the ER. Someone can always come to the hospital later to pick up your other kids.
- Take a copy of your child’s asthma action plan or a note with the names and dosages of any medicines your child takes to share with the medical staff at the ER.
- Try to keep a written record of when your child uses a rescue inhaler.
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How Is Asthma Treated
There’s no cure for asthma, but it can be managed to prevent flare-ups. Asthma treatment involves two important things: avoiding triggers and taking medicine.
There are many ways to avoid triggers. After your child’s triggers are identified, the doctor will work with you to come up with a plan to avoid them.
For example, if pet dander or mold in your home trigger your child’s asthma symptoms, you can make your home asthma-safe by changing the linens often, vacuuming regularly, and keeping the family pet out of your child’s bedroom. If outdoor allergies are a problem, your child should avoid the outdoors on days when pollen counts are high.
If exercise is a trigger, the doctor may prescribe a medicine for your child to take before physical activity to prevent airways from tightening up. Doctors help people with exercise-induced asthma manage physical activity, not avoid it. Exercise can help people stay healthier overall .
Getting a yearly flu shot is also important, as illnesses like the flu can trigger asthma flare-ups.
Most asthma medicines are breathed directly into the lungs , but some are pills or liquids. There are two types of asthma medicines:
Quick-relief medicines act fast to open up tight airways. They can be used as needed during a flare-up. Quick-relief medicines act fast, but their effect doesn’t last long. These kinds of medicines are also called “fast-acting” or “rescue” medicines.
When To See Your Doctor
- severe trouble breathing, such as rapid breathing, indrawing of muscles between their ribs when inhaling, and grunting when exhaling
- blue lips or fingertips, darkened skin
- chest, throat or neck pain
- fever and constant coughing or wheezing that doesnt respond to prescribed medicines
- vomiting that wont allow them to take oral medicine.
Also see your doctor if your child has asthma and is uneasy, drowsy, confused or lethargic .
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History And Physical Examination
Your physical examination will include checking your vital signs, such as your temperature, pulse, and breathing rate. A fever can be an indication of an infection. Rapid breathing or a rapid heart rate can be a sign of a severe infection or an impending asthma attack.
Your doctor will listen to your breathing sounds with a stethoscope, which will help determine whether your congestion is on one side of the lungs or both.
- Generally, with asthma and allergies, congestion affects both lungs.
- Congestion can be limited to one lung or one section of a lung when there is another cause, such as an infection.
Wheezing Sounds And Persistent Coughs
An occasional stuffy nose can lead to some noisy breathing. But wheezing associated with asthma is distinctive. With asthma, the wheezing can sound anywhere from a high-pitched soft whine to a whistling noise. The sound is most audible when a child exhales. While occasional coughing is normal, a persistent cough can be a sign of respiratory problems. If a child struggles with a persistent cough, especially after recovering from a respiratory illness like a cold or the flu, asthma may be the culprit. Likewise, frequent coughing spells during play and exercise can also be an indicator of asthma.
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Exercise Is Good For Children With Asthma
Exercise is good for children with asthma, as long as their asthma is well managed.
- You can give your child their reliever inhaler before exercise, if exercise usually triggers their asthma.
- If your child already has asthma symptoms, its best for them to avoid exercise until they improve.
- Sports with lots of stopping and starting are less likely to cause problems eg, swimming, tennis, martial arts and most team sports.
- Warming up before exercise is important.
- If your child shows any sign of asthma, STOP the activity immediately and treat the symptoms.
When To Call 999
Dont delay getting the help you need if your child has an asthma attack. Call 999 if your childs reliever isnt helping, or youre worried at any time.
While you wait for an ambulance, your child can repeat step 4 above.
An asthma attack is a real emergency, and could be life-threatening, says nurse specialist Debby Waddell.
Getting the right help when your child needs it is so important, to make sure your child is treated quickly. Never think youre wasting anyones time.
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How Is Asthma Diagnosed In A Child
To diagnose asthma, your childs healthcare provider may recommend these tests:
- Spirometry. A spirometer is a device used to check lung function. It can be done in young children, including infants.
- Peak flow monitoring. A peak flow meter is used to measure the amount of air a child can blow out of the lungs. This measurement is very important in checking how well your childs asthma is being controlled.
- Chest X-rays. This diagnostic test uses invisible energy beams to make images of internal tissues, bones, and organs on film.
- Allergy tests. Allergy tests can show if your child has allergies that may be causing or worsening asthma.
Avoid Exposure To Pollutants
Radon, second-hand smoke, household chemicals and air pollution can worsen asthma symptoms. According to an American Lung Association State of the Air 2011 report, the area comprised of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Riverside, is fourth in the nation with the worst short-term air pollution. It’s the second worst for year-round air pollution and number one for worst ozone pollution.
That’s why it’s so important for local parents to check news reports and keep asthmatic children inside when pollution levels are particularly high. A simple way to prevent your child’s exposure to smoke is also not to do it around your children.
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