Asthma in Children
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the lung's air passages that can make breathing difficult. There is no cure for asthma and it will not go away, but there are very good treatments to control it. A child with asthma can enjoy a normal healthy life and participate in normal activities.
During normal breathing air moves in and out of the lungs through air passages, bringing oxygen and carbon dioxide in and out of the body. During an asthma attack, or asthma flare-up, muscle spasms constrict and tighten the airways and cause the air passages to become narrower or blocked, making it harder for air to get in and out. Air flow is also blocked by inflammation (swelling), which thickens the airway walls and creates mucus and phlegm inside the airways. Both the spasms and the inflammation make it hard to breathe.
Symptoms of an asthma flare up include:
- Chest tightness that makes it hard to breathe
- Waking up at night coughing
- Extra phlegm and mucus
- Frequent visits to your health care provider or emergency room and even hospitalization
- Inability to participate in sports and other physical activity
- Missed school days
- Lung damage and, in severe cases, death
Communicating with Your Health Care Provider
Working closely with your child's health care provider is the best way to achieve control of your child's asthma. Together you will learn what affects your child's asthma and the best way to treat it. Schedule at least two "asthma only" visits with your health care provider every year. Come to those visits well prepared and ask questions if you don't understand something.
At these visits, your health care provider needs to know:
- What asthma symptoms your child gets and how often
- Whether asthma affects your child's sleep
- Whether asthma affects your child's daily activities
- What medications your child uses and how often you refill the controller and rescue medications
- How often your child uses quick-relief "rescue" medications
- What triggers your child's asthma, especially any new triggers
- The Peak Flow reading if your child uses a Peak Flow meter