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Your Child and Asthma: Steps Towards a Healthy Future

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Asthma is an increasingly prevalent condition, affecting millions of children across the globe. By narrowing the airways and producing excess mucus, asthma makes it difficult to breathe. In more mild cases, asthma can be a minor inconvenience. In the more severe cases, it can be completely debilitating. If your child has asthma or is showing signs of having asthma, immediate action should be taken so that your child can live a healthy, happy life.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a condition that causes one’s airways to narrow and swell, causing the production of excess mucus through the process of inflammation. It can cause coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Though asthma can’t be cured, the symptoms can be managed. For you child’s safety, It is important to be consistent with physician consultations, as asthma can fluctuate in severity. Symptoms should be tracked and every precaution taken to minimize attacks.

Symptoms of asthma

Shortness of breath, chest tightness or pain and coughing or wheezing attacks worsened by exercise, allergens or anything else affecting the respiratory system. If these symptoms become more frequent, then it is a sign that your child’s condition is worsening.

Causes

The root cause of asthma is still speculative, but environmental conditions, allergies and heredity are known to play a large role in triggering symptoms. The following are causes of exacerbated asthma in patients with latent symptoms:

  • airborne allergens (i.e., pollen, dust, dander etc.),  
  • respiratory infections such as the common cold,
  • physical exertion
  • extreme emotional responses, such as stress

Risk Factors

Again, we know little of the cause of asthma, but we do know that the following people are more likely to  suffer from the condition:

  • people with allergies,
  • people who have a history of asthma in the family,
  • smokers or those who have been exposed to secondhand smoke,
  • those whose mother smoked while pregnant,
  • overweight people,
  • those who are exposed to pollution or work with chemicals on a regular basis.

Diagnostics

If you are worried that your child may have asthma, consult your physician (pediatrician). There are several tests that can be performed in order to rule out respiratory infections or other obstructive conditions. The following are examples of tests that may be performed to diagnose your child:

  • Spirometry – a test that measures the narrowing of the bronchial tubes. This test is done by observing how much air is exhaled after having taken a deep breath.
  • Peak flow – this test involves a peak meter that measures the strength of exhalations. If the readings are low, this indicates lessened lung function and a worsening of the condition.
  • Methacholine challenge – Methacholine is a substance which triggers asthma. One inhales the substance and if constriction of the airways occurs then it is likely they have asthma.
  • Other tests include imaging tests to scan the lung and nose cavities, or allergy tests involving taking skin and blood samples.

Treatment

The important thing to remember, is cases vary from person to person. Your child may rarely suffer from the symptoms of asthma, or they may struggle with their breathing every day. A physician will be able to look at your child’s specific case and create a treatment method best suited for them. Asthma is a manageable condition, and the wellbeing of your child is absolutely achievable. The following are treatment methods a physician may recommend for asthma:

  • Inhaled corticosteroids – anti-inflammatory drugs one inhales. These drugs may take a few weeks to several months to yield the desired results, but they are a preferred method as they are classified as safe for long term use.
  • Combination inhalers – these inhaled drugs include beta agonists to open the airways and corticosteroids for inflammation. This method is long acting and may decrease the risk of an acute asthma attack.

There are many options for controlling symptoms, whether the long-term methods listed above, or short-term methods such as short acting beta agonists or oral and intravenous corticosteroids, both of which are of a higher intensity and should only be used in the most severe attacks. Discuss with your physician which method is best to treat your child. With a treatment plan catered to the health needs of your child, a happy, healthy life is achievable.

References

  1. Mayo Clinic: Asthma. Available from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/asthma/basics/definition/con-20026992. Accessed on August 24, 2015.
  2. AAAAI: Asthma. Available from: http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/asthma.aspx. Accessed on August 25, 2012.

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