Key Points About Asthma In Children
Asthma is a long-term lung disease.
Symptoms include trouble breathing, wheezing, chest tightness, and coughing.
Staying away from the things that cause asthma symptoms is an important part of asthma treatment.
Medicines are used to prevent and control symptoms during flare-ups.
Asthma can cause serious complications if it is not well-controlled.
An up-to-date asthma action plan is key to managing asthma.
Which Children Are At Risk For Asthma
Certain factors raise the risk of asthma in children:
- Being exposed to secondhand smoke when their mother is pregnant with them or when they are small children
- Genetics and family history. Children are more likely to have asthma if one of their parents has it, especially if its the mother.
- Race or ethnicity. Black and African Americans and Puerto Ricans are at higher risk of asthma than people of other races or ethnicities.
- Having other medical conditions such as allergies and obesity
- Often having viral respiratory infections as young children
- Sex. In children, asthma is more common in boys. In teens, it is more common in girls.
How Does A Child Get Asthma
Scientists havent identified a single cause for asthma. American Academy researchers believe that several factors cause the condition in children, including:
Genetics asthma often runs in the family, so if one of the parents has asthma, a child is likely to develop it, too.
Viral infections children who have a history of viral infections are more prone to developing asthma
The hygiene hypothesis proposing that babies are often overprotected and not exposed enough to bacteria in their earliest months, and sometimes even years. Their immune system doesnt become resilient enough to fight conditions like asthma.
Exposure to allergens Children who are in frequent contact with known common allergens may have an increased risk of developing asthma.
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Does Childhood Asthma Recur
Some children may outgrow asthma symptoms or show improvement during their teenage years. However, nearly half of them may have asthma again in their 30s or 40s. Unfortunately, there is no known way to predict who will outgrow the condition or have it again in the future. However, proper management of asthma allows most children to have a normal active life without major complications.
It is important to avoid asthma triggers as much as possible since the lungs can be extra sensitive. You may also ensure that your child has an inhaler with medication handy and know to use it to prevent the symptoms from worsening. Although the treatment is long and the disease is often not completely curable, sticking to the treatment plans can prevent complications and reduce the severity of the symptoms in children.
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 Are The Types Of Asthma
There are five major types of asthma:
- Childhood asthma the most common one. It usually starts anywhere from age one to age five. Childhood asthma is more common in boys, but once you become an adult you’re more likely to have it if you are a woman.
- Adult-onset asthma, which is actually more common in women.
- Occupational asthma that is caused by inhaling chemical fumes, dust or other substances on the job.
- Exercise-induced asthma. There are kids who are involved in sports and they have asthma. Their asthma is induced by exercise.
- Cough-variant asthma. This type is what we see very commonly in kids. There are some kids who never, or rarely wheeze. They just never stop coughing. They just cough, cough, cough all the time.
Talking about the types of asthma, you can also have intermittent and persistent. That’s very important in the classification of asthma and that’s very important for parents to know. Your doctor may tell you that your child’s asthma is intermittent, which means it’s mild. But if they tell you it’s persistent, then it’s more serious.
What Can I Do To Prevent Asthma In My Child
Asthma cant be completely prevented. There are steps you can take to reduce the chance of your child having asthma. They include:
Not being around secondhand smoke
Staying away from air pollution
In most children, asthma flare-ups can be prevented by:
Staying away from known triggers
Carefully managing symptoms
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What Are The Symptoms Of A Severe Asthma Attack That Will Indicate That It’s An Emergency And It’s Time To Go To The Hospital
A child who’s at home, who you know has asthma, who’s wheezing and who cannot breathe. You should have tried an albuterol treatment first. You should have an inhaler or nebulizer at home. And if your child is saying: “Mommy, I can’t breathe!”, the first thing you do is to give the albuterol treatment.
However, you would know as a parent, if you’re asking your child a question and they are not able to talk, then you know that’s a severe attack, or if they are not improving after the first treatment, and still struggling to breathe, you have to call 911-emergency services.
Another sign is if the child cannot sit up straight. If they are constantly saying: “I just want to lay down, and they look drowsy”. That’s another sign. Or if they are changing color, if they’re turning blue around the lips or face- that’s definitely an emergency. You have to call 911 immediately. But in the meantime, while waiting for 911, just make sure you start the albuterol inhaler as fast as possible.
Prognosis Of Asthma In Children
Many children outgrow asthma. However, as many as 1 in 4 children either continue to have asthma attacks or the asthma symptoms resolve only to return when children are older. Children who have severe asthma are more likely to have asthma as adults. Other risk factors for persistence and relapse include female sex, smoking, development of asthma at a younger age, and sensitivity to household dust mites.
Although asthma causes a significant number of deaths each year, most of these are preventable with treatment. Thus, the prognosis is good for children who have access to treatment and who are able to follow their treatment plan.
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Risk Factors For Asthma
Doctors do not completely understand why some children develop asthma, but a number of risk factors are recognized:
Inherited and prenatal factors
Most children who are having an asthma attack and 90% of children who have been hospitalized for asthma have a viral infection . Children who have bronchiolitis Bronchiolitis Bronchiolitis is a viral infection that affects the lower respiratory tract of infants and young children under 24 months of age. Bronchiolitis usually is caused by viruses. Symptoms include… read more at an early age often wheeze with subsequent viral infections. The wheezing may at first be interpreted as asthma, but these children are no more likely than others to have asthma during adolescence.
Diet may be a risk factor. Children who do not consume enough of vitamins C and E and omega-3 fatty acids or who are obese may be at risk of asthma.
Preparing For Your Childs Visit To Your Healthcare Provider
During your appointment, your healthcare providerwill conduct a physical exam and may order some tests, like x-ray, blood tests, allergy skin tests, and pulmonary function tests .
The physician will take a detailed history of:
- Family allergy/asthma, with emphasis on parents
- Childs allergy history e.g. eczema
- Childs history of illness to date e.g. frequency of colds
- Childs symptoms: Severity, frequency and duration of symptoms. What brings an end to the symptoms for example if the child has a cold, do the symptoms disappear when the cold is over?
- Childs triggers: what have the parents observed with respect to exposures to allergens or irritants, such as smoke, perfume, infection or emotions
This information will help your healthcare provider understand your childs pattern of symptoms.
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Asthma In Children: Symptoms Causes Treatment And Prevention
Of all ailments affecting the respiratory system in the human body, Asthma gets a special mention. This is a chronic respiratory disease which inflames the airways leading to temporary contraction of passage carrying oxygen to your lungs. This leads to moderate to severe breathing problems, accompanied by wheezing, coughing and a feeling of toughness in the chest. People can live with asthma if they get proper treatment, but lack of adequate treatment may lead to crippled life. Like adults of all age groups, children too can fall prey to asthma without any warning.
Make Sure Your Child’s Environment Is Smoke
Make sure your child’s environment is smoke-free, wherever they happen to be. Asthma increases in children whose parents smoke. Tobacco smoke also triggers asthma attacks and makes a child’s asthma more severe than it would otherwise be. Many environmental factors contribute to asthma cigarette smoke is one that you can avoid.
If you want to give up smoking:
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Effect On Your Child’s Life
Loss of lung function in asthma appears to start early in childhood. Asthma also may increase the risk of a partial collapse of lung tissue or a collapsed lung .
Sometimes asthma does not respond to treatment because children are not taking their medicines or are not taking them correctly, are not avoiding triggers, and are otherwise not following their asthma action plan. It is very important that you and other caregivers make sure your child is following his or her action plan to keep asthma from getting worse and to reduce the risk of death from asthma.
How Is Asthma In Children Diagnosed
It can be hard to diagnose asthma in children, especially if they are young. Asthma has similar symptoms as other childhood conditions. And some children may not have asthma symptoms very often, so it may seem like they are having respiratory infections instead.
Your child’s health care provider may use many tools to diagnose asthma:
- Physical exam
- Chest x-ray
- Lung function tests, including spirometry, to test how well the lungs work. Younger children are usually not able to do these tests.
- Allergy skin or blood tests, if you have a history of allergies. These tests check which allergens cause a reaction from your immune system.
If you have a young child who cannot do lung function tests, the provider may suggest doing a trial of asthma medicines. The trial involves giving your child the medicines for several weeks to see whether the symptoms get better.
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Complications Of Asthma In Children
The following complications may occur due to uncontrolled or poorly managed asthma in children.
- Permanent or lasting airway damages that increase the risk for pneumonia, gastroesophageal reflux, and obstructive sleep apnea
- Severe asthma attacks
- Increased emergency room or hospital stay
- Missing school and other activities
Some children may develop side effects and long-term medications. For example, inhaled oral corticosteroids may be associated with fungal infections, Cushing syndrome, weight gain, and metabolic dysfunctions. You may talk to the doctor to know the precautions to prevent these effects of medications.
Lifestyle And Home Remedies To Prevent Asthma
You may also try the following lifestyle modifications and home remedies to reduce your childâs exposure to asthma triggers.
- Maintain low humidity at home by using dehumidifier devices if you live in a damp climate.
- Reduce pet dander at home by vacuuming it if you have a pet. It is best to avoid pets with feathers and fur if the child has an allergy to dander. However, if you already have a pet, keep them out of the childâs room and groom and bathe them regularly.
- Use air conditioning at home to reduce pollen from entering indoors. This may also reduce indoor humidity and exposure to dust mites. You may keep the windows closed during the pollen season.
- Check the indoor air quality and use a small particle filter in the ventilation system if needed. You may also check the air conditioning and heating systems every year.
- Avoid exposure to cold air and dry air by wearing a mask outdoors.
- Clean the house regularly to keep dust to a minimum. You may dry dust-proof pillow covers and bedsheets in the childâs room. Consider removing carpets and use washable curtains in their room.
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Risk Factors And Causes Of Asthma In Children
Asthma occurs due to the swelling of the tubes that carry air to and from the lungs. This may make the airways narrower and more sensitive than usual. Exposure to the following triggers may increase the risk for asthma in children.
Certain prenatal factors, such as maternal smoking during pregnancy, also increase the risk for asthma in children. Identifying and avoiding triggers and risk factors may help keep asthma symptoms under control.
What Can You Do If Your Child Has Been Diagnosed With Asthma
If your child has just been diagnosed with asthma, know that you are not alone. Asthma Canada and your healthcare team have many resources available to you.
- Start by learning as much as you can about the condition. Work closely with your childs healthcare provider to monitor your childs asthma symptoms. Ask questions and clarify any information you are unsure about.
- Reach out to Asthma Canadas FREE Asthma & Allergy HelpLine to speak with a Certified Respiratory Educator.
- Begin keeping a diary to keep track of what non-allergic triggers affect your childs asthma. This will help you identify your childs triggers, and develop strategies to avoid them.
- Learn all you can about your childs medications. This includes possible side effects of medication and the appropriate technique for administering medication.
- Ask you healthcare provider about developing a Kids Asthma Action Plan. And Asthma Action Plan monitors asthma symptoms and has a written plan to follow when symptoms change.
- Join Asthma Canadas membership alliance to connect with other Canadians living with asthma or impacted by asthma.
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Exposure To Triggers At Work
Occupational asthma is a type of asthma caused by certain things found in the workplace, such as chemicals or dust from flour or wood.
If you havent had asthma before and then get it because of the work you do, and if your symptoms improve when youre not at work, you probably have occupational asthma.
Occupational asthma is a common cause of adult onset asthma.
The Five Parts To An Asthma Treatment Plan
Step 1: Identifying and controlling asthma triggers
Children with asthma have different sets of triggers. Triggers are the factors that irritate the airways and cause asthma symptoms. Triggers can change seasonally and as a child grows older . Some common triggers are allergens, viral infections, irritants, exercise, breathing cold air, and weather changes.
Identifying triggers and symptoms can take time. Keep a record of when symptoms occur and how long they last. Once patterns are discovered, some of the triggers can be avoided through environmental control measures, which are steps to reduce exposure to a child’s allergy triggers. Talk with your doctor about starting with environmental control measures that will limit those allergens and irritants causing immediate problems for a child. Remember that allergies develop over time with continued exposure to allergens, so a child’s asthma triggers may change over time.
Others who provide care for your child, such as babysitters, day-care providers, or teachers must be informed and knowledgeable regarding your child’s asthma treatment plan. Many schools have initiated programs for their staff to be educated about asthma and recognize severe asthma symptoms.
The following are suggested environmental control measures for different allergens and irritants:
To control dust mites:
To control pollens and molds:
To control irritants:
To control animal dander:
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Symptoms Of Asthma In Children
As the airways narrow in an asthma attack, the child develops difficulty breathing, chest tightness, and coughing Cough in Children Cough helps clear materials from the airways and prevent them from going to the lungs. The materials may be particles that have been inhaled or substances from the lungs and/or airways. Most… read more , typically accompanied by wheezing. Wheezing Wheezing in Infants and Young Children Wheezing is a relatively high-pitched whistling sound that occurs during breathing when the airways are partially blocked or narrowed. Wheezing is caused by a narrowing of the airways. Other… read more is a high-pitched noise heard when the child breathes out.
Not all asthma attacks cause wheezing, however. Mild asthma, particularly in very young children, may result only in a cough. Some older children with mild asthma tend to cough only when exercising or when exposed to cold air. Also, children with an extremely severe asthma attack may actually not wheeze because there is too little air flowing to make a noise.