Childhood Asthma

  • February 27, 2021

Six year old Ria was a lonely and unhappy child. While all her friends were out playing in the park in the evenings, she wasn’t allowed to go out, as her mother was always afraid that she would catch a cold. And, catching a cold for her meant long episodes of incessant coughing accompanied by painful wheezing and shortness of breath. Ria had asthma, a condition she had been detected with two years ago following an episode of cough and cold with severe breathlessness. The good news however, was that her condition was manageable and the Paediatrician said that Ria was likely to outgrow the manifestations when she is older.

What is Childhood Asthma?

Though the triggers and the treatment for Paediatric asthma are often the same as in adults, the challenges in children are very different.

Cold or allergens like pollen can cause inflammation in the lungs and airways of a child. The coughing, wheezing and tightness in the chest due to this may make it difficult for him/her to do everyday activities or get sound sleep. In children an asthma attack is more likely to develop into an emergency requiring a visit to the hospital. In some children the manifestations of the condition may subside during puberty, but it may come back in later life.

Causes and Triggers of Childhood Asthma

Some of the most common triggers of Childhood Asthma include:

  • Airway infections like colds, pneumonia, and infections of the sinus
  • Allergens like cockroaches, mites, moulds, pet dander, and pollens
  • Irritants like pollution/smoke, chemicals, cold air, odours, can bother the airways
  • Exercise can increase wheezing, coughing, and tightness in the chest
  • Stress can many a time cause shortness of breath and worsen Asthma symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Childhood Asthma

Not all children may have the same asthma symptoms and it may differ from one episode to the next. Signs and symptoms of asthma in children include:

  • A cough that lasts for a long time
  • Coughing spells while playing or exercising, at night, in cold air, or while laughing or crying
  • A cough that gets worse after a viral infection
  • Feeling breathless during activities like playing etc
  • Tendency to avoid sports or any social activities
  • Problem in sleeping due to coughing or breathing issues
  • Quick breathing
  • Pain or tightness in the chest
  • Wheezing or whistling sound while breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness around neck and chest muscles
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble eating, or grunting in infants

Experts often refer to the condition as “reactive airways disease” and “bronchiolitis” in infants and toddlers. Tests may not always be able to confirm asthma in children younger than 5 years of age.

When to get emergency care

Most of the times an asthma attack can be treated at home, but you may need to visit an emergency if your child shows the following symptoms:

  • Is breathless all the time and has trouble talking or walking
  • Uses abdominal muscles to breathe (you notice his/her belly sinking under the ribs while breathing)
  • Has severe wheezing or coughing
  • Lips and fingernails having a blue-ish tinge
  • Widened nostrils while breathing
  • Has fast heartbeat, abnormal sweating or complains of chest pain

Risk Factors

Children with the following risk factors are likely to be more susceptible to asthma:

  • Nasal allergies or eczema
  • A family history of asthma or allergies
  • Frequent bouts of respiratory infections
  • Low birth weight
  • Exposure to second hand tobacco smoke before or after birth
  • Being raised in unhygienic surroundings

Avoiding Childhood Asthma Triggers

To prevent asthma attacks or to keep them from getting worse, follow these steps:

  • Avoid smoking in front of your child
  • Regularly clean bedding and carpets to get rid of dust mites
  • Keep pets out of their immediate vicinity and use air filter for allergens
  • Get regular pest control done
  • Use dehumidifiers to prevent moulds
  • Check daily air quality reports in your area
  • Maintain healthy weight of your child
  • Ensure they eat healthy and avoid heartburn
  • If exercise is a trigger for the attack then ask the child to take the inhaler 20 minutes before the activity to keep their airways open
  • Give the child Flu shot every year

To prevent childhood Asthma complications one will need to work closely with the treating doctor to learn all about asthma in children, how to avoid triggers, what medications to give, and how to handle the situation in case of an emergency.

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