- Kids Health
How do Children Get Asthma
How You Get Asthma
Doctors don’t really know why some people get asthma, but they do know some people have airways that are more sensitive. Pre-school children typically get asthma brought on by a viral infection. More children are getting asthma and experts suggest they are being exposed to more dust, air pollution and second-hand smoke is the cause. Some doctors think children are not being exposed to enough childhood illnesses to build up their immune system, so the body can’t make enough protective antibodies.
Some facts doctors do know:
- Asthma sometimes runs in families
- Many triggers may cause an asthma attack, which include cold air, vigorous exercise and stress
- Triggers are also called allergens, which are environmental include things present in the environment containing chemicals that trigger attacks
- Allergens include pollen, animal dander, house dust, mold, cigarette smoke, perfume, and some foods
- Attacks will likely be more frequent in people with chest infections
What is Asthma
Normally when we take a breath the air travels through a series of bronchial tubes into the lungs, which branch out like a tree. Each branch has a smaller diameter until they finally turn into alveoli, which are millions of tiny air sacs. This is the point where oxygen is absorbed into the blood stream and distributed it throughout the body. When children have asthma the airways become irritated and inflamed. They also produce extra mucous, which blocks the airways thus air moves more slowly in and out of the lungs.
The symptoms of asthma are coughing, wheezing, tightness of the chest and breathlessness, which occurs in about 10% of children. It is very rare for severe asthma to be fatal in children. The symptoms are caused by narrowing of the passageways and are frequently triggered by allergies or a virus.
How Can I Tell if My Child Has Asthma
- Frequent coughing that is not connected to any illness, especially at night and first thing in the morning, at play or while laughing
- If your child is lethargic during a normal play time?
- Rapid breathing or shortness of breath (asthma attack) at rest should definitely get your attention
- If your child complains of their chest hurting
- If you hear a whistling sound, which is wheezing when your child is breathing in and out
- Seesaw motions (or retractions) in the chest from labored breathing
- Tightened neck and chest muscles
- If you child complains of weakness or tiredness
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Frequent headaches
- Loss of appetite
Remember children don’t always have the same symptoms and many of these symptoms can be due to other causes. However, having wheezing, rapid breathing or labored breathing require medical care more quickly.
Diagnosis of Asthma in Children
A physician will want a history of your child’s problems, and any family history. A physical exam will be completed and most children will receive a chest x-ray and a pulmonary function test. This test measures the amount of air in the lungs and how fast it can be expelled. This test will help the doctor determine how severe the asthma is, although it is very difficult to do this test on a child under the age of 5 years. If allergies are suspected your child may have allergy skin testing, and the doctor will also look for a sinus infection as well.
Bronchodilator for Child
Asthma Treatment for Children
Medications will be determined depending on the severity of your child’s asthma. Doctor’s typically develop a plan (like a diary) of care called “asthma action plan”. You will learn when to seek emergency care. This plan will let you know exactly how to respond to your child’s condition. There are three components in the successful treatment of asthma, which include controlling/avoiding triggers; regular monitoring of asthma symptoms and lung function and understanding how to use the proper medications.
The number of flares determines treatment with glucocorticoids (steroids). Bronchodilators (Ventolin, Proventil, ProAir, etc.) are frequently used to relieve asthma symptoms rapidly by relaxing the muscles around the narrowed airways. These are used only occasionally. The bronchodilators are also delivered with a nebulizer or through a metered dose inhaler.
There are side effects of bronchodilators, which include an increased heart rate or becoming hyperactive. Children with persistent asthma must take this medication on a daily basis to keep their asthma under control. Inhaled glucocortcoids reduces swelling and sensitivity of the bronchial tubes, which reduces reaction to asthma triggers. There are numerous other medications that are used as necessary.
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Asthma is a chronic disease but usually not a lethal one. Fortunately half of the children outgrow asthma, but if it is left untreated, scar tissue will form. Take you baby or child to a physician for an examination if you even suspect your child might have asthma.
© 2011 Pamela Oglesby