The importance of breath is never realized until you struggle to catch it! That’s exactly what asthma is – a chronic (long term) lung disease that makes breathing difficult and harder. Asthma affects more than 7 million children and teenagers in America. In fact, it is the third leading cause of hospitalization in children under age 15.
Diagnosed as severe lung inflammation, asthma causes narrowing of the airways (bronchioles) in lungs, making it harder for air to move in and out of lungs and difficult for a person to catch a breath. The disease affects young and old alike; however, the lungs of children are extremely sensitive to stimuli or triggers and even a small exposure to the allergen can lead to asthma attack in children. That’s why, children with asthma have special concerns and need proper care and attention.
Read on to know read on to know what causes asthma in children, how it is diagnosed and treated, and what you should do to create an asthma-friendly environment for your child.
What Causes Asthma in Children?
While the exact cause of asthma still remains unknown, there are various genetic and environmental factors that can lead to asthma attacks in children. These include, but are not limited to:
- Allergens: Dust mites, pollens, molds, pets, and wastes from pests, cockroaches and mites can lead to allergic asthma in children and adolescents.
- Cold, dry air
- Household chemicals
- Frequent colds and flu
- Outdoor air pollution
- Tobacco smoke
- Certain medicines
- Genetics or a family history of asthma
- Viral respiratory infections
- Predisposition to other medical conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease, allergies and obesity
- Sex: In children, asthma is more common in boys, while in teens, it is more frequent in girls.
However, asthma triggers may be different in every child and can also change over time.
Symptoms of Asthma
The symptoms of asthma in children and adolescents include:
- Chest tightness
- Coughing, especially at night or early morning
- Wheezing or a whistling sound when they breathe out
- Shortness of breath or rapid breathing
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Frequent irritation
- Tiredness or lethargy
- Trouble eating or sucking (in infants)
Though asthma progresses very slowly, during an asthma attack, the symptoms tend to get extremely worse and can even turn fatal within a few minutes. That’s why, it’s important to watch out for the warning signs of asthma – severe coughing, extreme breathing issues, and pale or blue face, lips and/or fingernails, and seek medical help right away.
Diagnosing Asthma in Children and Adolescents
Asthma is a disease that can only be diagnosed by a healthcare professional and needs continuous monitoring throughout the lifetime of your child. A pediatrician can evaluate your child for symptoms and associated triggers to ascertain the presence of disease as well as determine the severity of condition. When visiting a pediatrician, be sure to let him know if
- The symptoms persist only during a particular season – spring, fall or winters
- Your child suffers from acute respiratory infection
- Exercise or exposure to cold air has triggered an attack
- There’s a family history of asthma or allergic disorders
- Any environmental trigger has led to asthma or allergic response in the child
Basis the symptoms, the doctor would recommend certain tests, including chest x-ray, lung function test and allergy tests, to confirm the presence of asthma in children. These tests also help the physician to rule other conditions that mimic asthma and/or worsen the severity of asthma in children. These include heart and lung diseases, enlarged thyroid glands, sinus problems, respiratory infections and more.
Steps for Treating Asthma in Children and Adolescents
Treatment of asthma in children needs a correct action plan that can not only help you manage the symptoms but also prevent your child’s exposure to all the possible attack triggers. The treatment plan also depends on the age of the child and the severity of the disease, which is usually classified as:
- Mild Persistent
- Moderate Persistent
- Severe Persistent
Once all these factors have been ascertained, your doctor would develop a holistic treatment plan, that includes:
- Patient Education: Both parents and the children are taught effective ways to monitor and manage asthma. Parents are also given a written asthma action plan, which includes complete information on child’s daily treatment along with ways to recognize worsening asthma.
- Controlling the Triggers: The more the allergies, the higher is the severity of asthma. To keep your child protected, it is important for parents to inculcate certain lifestyle changes in their children to help reduce allergy attacks and other triggers. From reducing indoor allergens to preventing your child’s exposure to environmental triggers, your pediatrician would guide you on all the potential ways to reduce your child’s exposure to all possible allergens, at home as well as in his surroundings. Avoidance and management of environmental triggers and co-existing chronic conditions, like rhinitis, sinusitis, and obesity, is also important for controlling and managing asthma.
- Medications. The pediatrician would also prescribe a medicinal treatment plans for your child on the basis of the age (0 to 4 years, 5 to 11 years, and 12 years and older). The medicines – both the quick relief medicines and the long-term maintenance medicines – help relieve the symptoms of asthma, reduce its severity as well as prevent the long-term damaging effects of inflammatory response.
- Diet and Exercise: Asthmatic children should be encouraged to engage in swimming, sports and other physical activities that can help build endurance and improve the functioning of their lungs. Yoga and meditation have particular benefits in treating and managing asthma. Similarly, asthmatic children should be encouraged to follow a healthy nutritious diet plan that’s devoid of chemicals and substances that can lead to allergies or asthma attacks.
At EPIC Health, we offer comprehensive help to manage and treat asthma in children and adolescents. Our certified pediatricians work with you and your child to evaluate the severity of the condition and provide expert support and guidance to effectively reduce the burden of the disease. Our innovative practices and systematic approach, along with dietary recommendations, for asthma detection and treatment helps in reducing the frequency and severity of asthma attacks, allowing your child to live healthy, disease-free life.
If your child is suffering from asthma or any other respiratory disorder, schedule an appointment with our expert pediatricians today! We can help your child live happy, healthy and better!