All about asthma
If your little one is diagnosed with asthma, don't fret. We are here to help you understand what asthma is and how to treat this chronic illness that affects so many children.
Anyone can have asthma. Adults, teens, children and even young infants can develop asthma. Asthma is a lung condition that causes difficulty breathing. As parents, it is important to be aware of the main causes, symptoms and treatment for it, as more and more children are suffering from this illness.
What causes asthma?
- Some experts suggest that children are being exposed to a lot of allergens such as dust, air pollution, and second-hand smoke. All these factors trigger asthma.
- Others suspect that it affects children when they are not able to build up their immune system. It appears that a disorder of the immune system where the body fails to make enough protective antibodies may play a role in causing asthma.
- Some suggest that decreasing rates of breastfeeding have prevented important substances of the immune system from being passed on to babies.
- A genetic link in asthma has long been suspected. Several studies conclude that heredity increases your chances of developing asthma, particularly if allergies or other allergic conditions are present.
Symptoms to look out for to know your child has asthma
Keep in mind that not all children have the same asthma symptoms, and these symptoms can vary from one asthma episode to the next in the same child.
Signs and symptoms to look for include:
- All children with asthma have inflamed airways. In addition, their airways are overly sensitive, or hyper reactive, to certain asthma triggers.
- In kids under 5 years of age, the most common cause of asthma-like symptoms is upper respiratory viral infections such as common cold.
- Frequent coughing spells, which may occur during play, at night, or while laughing. It is important to know that cough may be the only symptom present. Though not all wheezing or coughing is caused by asthma.
- Rapid breathing, shortness or loss of breath or whistling sound (wheezing) when breathing in or out. So when your child has problem breathing, take him or her to the doctor immediately for an evaluation.
- Less energy during play, feelings of weakness or tiredness
- Complaint of chest tightness or chest "hurting". See-saw motions (retractions) in the chest from labored breathing. Tightened neck and chest muscles
- Other symptoms to look for are dark circles under the eye, frequent headaches or loss of appetite
How to diagnose asthma
The following information helps the doctor understand the pattern of symptoms, which can help determine what type of asthma the child has and how best to treat it. So it is crucial that you describe your child's symptoms and any family history in detail.
1. Medical History -
- The child's and the family's allergy history,
- How often the child gets colds, how severe they are, and how long they last,
- Exposure to allergens and things in the air that can irritate the airways or other things that seem to lead to an asthma attack
2. Symptom description -
- What symptoms are observed
- How severe they are,
- When and where they occur,
- How often they occur,
- How long they last
3. Physical exam –
- External examination of chest
4. Tests –
- A breathing test with a spirometer to analyse airflow through the airways
- For children above 5 years, Lung function tests to check the amount of air in the lungs and how fast it can be exhaled
- Allergy skin tests
- Blood tests
- Chest X-ray
Treatment for an asthma affected child
Thanks to new medications and treatment strategies, kids with asthma no longer need to sit on the sidelines, and parents no longer need to worry constantly about their child's well-being.
- Avoid triggers – Learn to identify and eliminate exposure to asthma triggers like allergens and other irritants.
- Asthma action plan – This is a step by step plan on when and how your child should use medications, what to do when asthma gets worse, and when to seek emergency care for your child. Keep this handy to successfully control his or her asthma.
- Medication - Most doctors recommend daily anti-inflammatory medication. Children above 4 years may be prescribed inhalers or nebulisers.