Pediatric asthma can be frightening to parents, but is a common condition that affects millions of children annually. It is defined as a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways caused by an obstruction. While asthma has no cure, it is easily managed with a combination of long-term and quick relief treatments that bring relief to your child and prevent lung damage from occurring.
What Causes Asthma?
Asthma develops when the immune system becomes overly sensitive to a particular trigger. When the body encounters this irritant, the bronchi contract, the mucus membranes swell, and they produce more mucus than usual. This causes the airways to narrow, and leads to breathing difficulties. Asthma can be triggered by a number of different factors. It is often hereditary, with no obvious cause. It can be brought on by an upper respiratory infection, allergies, pollution, exercise, or a change in the weather.
Children with a family history of asthma and upper respiratory diseases such as sinusitis, rhinitis, and reflux are most at risk for contracting asthma. Other risk factors include allergies, low birth weight, and obesity.
What Are the Symptoms of Asthma?
Asthma symptoms vary among individuals, but often include wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, chest congestion, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping and breathing. Your child may have one, all, or a combination of these signs.
Diagnosing asthma can be challenging, since most of the symptoms are found in other illnesses. Following a physical exam and a discussion of your child’s symptoms and family medical history, his or her doctor will run diagnostic tests to check for asthma. These may include lung function tests using a peak flow meter or spirometer, allergy skin testing, x-rays, and CT scan. If your child is younger than three years old, a diagnosis may be delayed since asthma medications in very young children can lead to unknown side effects.
How Is Asthma Treated?
Treatment for asthma involves a two-pronged approach. Children require long-term control drugs that are taken daily in order to prevent symptoms from flaring up, and quick relief (or rescue) medications that offer immediate relief during an asthma attack. Triggers change and evolve over time, so regular checkups are highly recommended.