A condition defined by 2 symptoms – airway constriction and chronic inflammation
Children who have asthma have chronic inflammation in their airways that is worsened by allergens, viruses or irritants.
The inflammation and constriction cause episodes of wheezing, tight coughing, shortness of breath, and pain and tightness of the chest.
The severity of the asthma is dependent upon how often the symptoms occur
There is no cure for asthma but it is highly treatable with a daily medication plan that is specific to the child’s symptoms.
Why do I have asthma?
Asthma is thought to be caused by a combination of genetics and environmental factors. There is a much greater chance of developing asthma if 1 or both parents have the condition. Environmental exposures such as cigarette smoke, ventilator use for premature babies and allergies also increase the chances of developing asthma.
The environmental and genetic components make you have an abnormal immune reaction that creates inflammation in your lungs and makes your airways constrict to certain triggers.
What symptoms will I have during an asthma flare?
The most common symptoms of asthma are shortness of breath, chest tightness and wheezing.
In babies, you will see symptoms like fast breathing, decreased feeding or sucking, flaring of nostrils, grunting and skin tightness between the ribs with every breath.
Another common presentation of asthma, especially in older children is a chronic cough, this cough is usually exacerbated by activity and may be accompanied by less energy while playing, rapid breathing, wheezing, or chin and throat itchiness.
The handout on respiratory distress lists all the signs and symptoms you will see during an asthma flare
Allergy medications are often added as a way to help airway medicines do their job better by trying to control the most common trigger – allergies. The medications are antihistamines, leukotriene receptor antagonists or nasal steroids that work at different levels of the allergy cascade to control symptoms.
How do I figure out what to use for me?
Treatment for asthma is different for every patient because everyone has different genetics and different triggers. We will work together to come up with an action plan that is tailored for you.
The goal of treatment is to:
- Prevent daily symptoms that cause a disruption in daily activities and sleep
- Eliminate or decrease visits to the ER and overnight hospital visits
- Maintain normal daily activities like exercise and outdoor play
The first step is to figure out which severity classification you fall into. Additional information with specific pulmonary function testing may be necessary.
All patients need to have a bronchodilator to take as needed when symptoms occur.
Patients that fall into the mild, moderate or severe persistent categories require daily use of anti – inflammatories and allergy medications to keep symptoms under control.
Will I be on these medications forever?
This is a simple question with a complex answer. Asthma is a chronic condition that cannot be cured but can be very well controlled.
With consistent implementation of the action plan, many patients are able to eliminate some or in rare instances, all of the medications needed for asthma control.
Consistent follow up with us as well as compliance with the medications at home ensure the best success.
More resources on asthma:
https://www.choa.org/medical-services/asthma – basic information about the causes of asthma and treatment guidelines
http://www.cdc.gov/asthma/inhaler_video/default.htm – short videos that demonstrate proper use of asthma inhalers
http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/just-for-kids – games for children to help understand asthma
https://www.choa.org/~/media/files/Childrens/medical-services/asthma/asthma-action-plan-younger-children.pdf?la=en – asthma action plan for younger children – should be completed with your pediatrician/allergy or asthma doctor
https://www.choa.org/~/media/files/Childrens/medical-services/asthma/asthma-action-plan-older-children.pdf?la=en – asthma action plan for older children – should be filled out with your pediatrician/allergy or asthma doctor