Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that affects the airways, which are the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. When a person with asthma inhales something that irritates their airways, such as allergens or pollution, their airways become inflamed and narrow. This can cause symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. Asthma can range from mild to severe, and it can be triggered by a variety of factors such as exercise, respiratory infections, and exposure to irritants or allergens.
The most common symptoms of asthma in children are coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. These symptoms may be worse at night or during exercise, and they may be accompanied by chest tightness or pressure. Children with asthma may also experience fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and a decrease in their activity level.
Asthma symptoms can vary from child to child and may be different at different times. Some children may have symptoms every day, while others may only have symptoms occasionally. It is important to pay attention to your child’s symptoms and work with their healthcare provider to develop a plan for managing them.
Asthma symptoms can be divided into two categories: persistent (long-term) and intermittent (occasional). Persistent asthma symptoms may include:
- Coughing, especially at night or early in the morning
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Chest tightness or pressure
- Wheezing (a whistling sound when breathing)
Intermittent asthma symptoms may include:
- Coughing or wheezing triggered by exercise or respiratory infections
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing during an asthma attack (a sudden, severe episode of asthma symptoms)
It is important to note that children with asthma may not always show obvious symptoms, especially if their asthma is well-controlled. This is why it is important for parents and caregivers to be aware of their child’s triggers and to work with their healthcare provider to develop a plan for managing their asthma.
The exact cause of asthma is not fully understood, but it is thought to be related to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Children who have a family history of asthma, allergies, or eczema are more likely to develop asthma. Other factors that may increase the risk of developing asthma include:
- Exposure to tobacco smoke: Children who are exposed to tobacco smoke are more likely to develop asthma and other respiratory problems.
- Allergens: Allergens such as pollen, mold, and pet dander can trigger asthma symptoms in some children.
- Respiratory infections: Children who have had frequent respiratory infections, such as colds or the flu, may be more likely to develop asthma.
- Environmental factors: Exposure to pollution, cold air, and other environmental irritants may increase the risk of developing asthma.
There are several types of asthma that may affect children, including:
- Allergic asthma: Allergic asthma is triggered by allergens such as pollen, mold, and pet dander. Children with allergic asthma may also have allergies to other substances such as food or medications.
- Non-allergic asthma: Non-allergic asthma is not triggered by allergens, and the cause is often unknown. This type of asthma may be triggered by cold air, exercise, or exposure to irritants such as pollution or tobacco smoke.
- Exercise-induced asthma: Exercise-induced asthma is triggered by physical activity, and it may cause symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath during or after exercise.
- Occupational asthma: Occupational asthma is caused by exposure to certain substances or conditions in the workplace, such as chemicals or dust. Children whose parents work in occupations that may expose them to asthma triggers, such as farming or manufacturing, may be at increased risk of developing asthma.
- Aspirin-induced asthma: Aspirin-induced asthma is a type of asthma that is triggered by taking aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). This type of asthma is more common in adults, but it can also affect children.
There is no cure for asthma, but it can be managed with proper treatment. The goal of treatment is to control the symptoms and prevent asthma attacks, which are episodes of severe symptoms that can be life-threatening. Treatment for asthma may include:
- Medications: Children with asthma may need to take daily medications to control their symptoms. These may include inhaled corticosteroids, which reduce inflammation in the airways, and long-acting bronchodilators, which relax the muscles in the airways. Children with severe asthma may also need to take oral corticosteroids or other medications.
- Asthma action plan: An asthma action plan is a written plan that outlines how to manage your child’s asthma on a daily basis and during an asthma attack. The plan should include information about your child’s medications, triggers, and what to do in case of an asthma attack.
- Environmental control: Children with asthma may need to avoid certain triggers that can cause their symptoms to flare up. This may include avoiding exposure to tobacco smoke, allergens, and other irritants.
- Pulmonary rehabilitation: Pulmonary rehabilitation is a program that helps children with asthma improve their breathing and increase their physical activity level. The program may include exercise, education, and counseling to help children manage their asthma and improve their quality of life.
- Allergy testing and treatment: If your child’s asthma is triggered by allergens, allergy testing and treatment may be recommended. This may include immunotherapy, which involves exposing your child to small amounts of allergens over time to help them build up immunity.
There are several things you can do to help prevent asthma attacks and manage your child’s asthma:
- Follow your child’s asthma action plan: It is important to follow your child’s asthma action plan and take their medications as prescribed. This can help prevent asthma attacks and keep their symptoms under control.
- Avoid triggers: Identifying and avoiding triggers that can cause asthma symptoms to flare up is an important part of prevention. This may include avoiding exposure to tobacco smoke, allergens, and other irritants.
- Encourage good respiratory health: Helping your child practice good respiratory health habits, such as washing their hands frequently and covering their mouth and nose when they sneeze or cough, can help prevent respiratory infections and reduce the risk of asthma attacks.
- Get vaccinated: Getting vaccinated against respiratory infections, such as the flu and pneumonia, can help reduce the risk of asthma attacks.
- Manage other medical conditions: Children with other medical conditions, such as allergies or eczema, may be at increased risk of developing asthma. Working with your child’s healthcare provider to manage these conditions can help reduce the risk of asthma attacks.
- Keep your home clean: Keeping your home clean and free of dust, mold, and other allergens can help prevent asthma symptoms in your child. This may include using air purifiers, vacuuming regularly, and using hypoallergenic bedding and cleaning products.
- Encourage a healthy lifestyle: Helping your child maintain a healthy weight, eat a healthy diet, and get regular physical activity can help reduce the risk of asthma attacks.
- Asthma. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/asthma/symptoms-causes/syc-20369653
- Asthma in Children. (2020, October). Retrieved from https://www.aafa.org/asthma-in-children/