What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic disease that often runs in families and is characterized by inflammation of the airways in the lungs. The severity of this inflammation is different for each child but can be bad enough to cause difficulty breathing.
There are different triggers for everyone, such as allergies and infections that can cause inflammation. Treatment is targeted at preventing these triggers and treating inflammation when it occurs.
An asthma “attack” occurs when there is sudden and severe inflammation of the airways making it harder for the child to breath. This is an emergency and immediate medical care should be sought.
What are the Symptoms of Asthma?
- Shortness of breath
- Chronic cough especially at nighttime
- Difficulty exercising due to shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
- Seasonal allergies and eczema are often associated with asthma
Asthma Diagnosis and Treatment
Asthma can be difficult to diagnose especially in young children. Many times, medications for asthma will be tried if the story and exam fit.
In older children when the diagnosis is uncertain, a set of tests called pulmonary function tests can be performed by a pediatric lung specialist.
Treatment and management of asthma focuses on:
- Target triggers. If a child has allergies or eczema, treat those! If you know infections are a trigger, then give your child albuterol 2 to 3 times per day when they get sick to prevent asthma symptoms from flaring up.
- Your provider should give you an asthma action plan which outlines how to keep asthma symptoms under control and what to do when they flare up.
- For infrequent episodes of wheezing that occur with exercise, infections or allergies, a medication called albuterol can help relieve inflammation in the airways
- If symptoms become chronic and albuterol is needed often, your provider will prescribe a maintenance medication– a medication your child can take everyday to stop episodes of wheezing or coughing from happening in the first place. Examples include inhaled corticosteroids and montelukast (singulair).
- For asthma “attacks,” episodes where your child is really having a hard time breathing, seek the attention of your provider or go to an ER immediately. If you have albuterol and steroids at home, you can give those on the way!
Check in with K if…
- You’d like to discuss the possibility of your child having asthma
- You have questions about asthma medications
- Your child is having asthma symptoms but you don’t think they need to go to a doctor or an emergency room
See a doctor in person if…
- Your child has a frequent nighttime cough
- Your child gets tired before other kids when exercising
- You hear your child wheezing
- Your child complains of chest tightness or difficulty breathing
- You’re not sure if your child’s symptoms are asthma