What is Asthma?
Asthma is a lung disease that affects about one in 10 children. It is the most common chronic disease of childhood and the number one reason that children miss school, go to emergency rooms, and are admitted to hospitals.
The condition inflames the lungs and narrows the airways, making it difficult for your child to breathe. It causes wheezing (a whistling sound when your child breathes), chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing. The coughing often occurs at night or early in the morning.
The condition can be mild or can lead to a medical emergency in which your child can’t take a breath. Early diagnosis and proper treatment is important to keep your child healthy and comfortable and to prevent dangerous or life-threatening attacks.
Children’s Health is expert in providing comprehensive diagnosis and treatment of children with asthma. Our Asthma Management offers environmental assessment, asthma education and self-management skills to help children and their parents deal with the complexities of the condition. It was the first such program in Texas to receive disease-specific certification by The Joint Commission for pediatric asthma care.
Asthma attacks or flares can come and go. When an attack begins, you will notice your child’s symptoms become worse rapidly. These symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness or pain
Symptoms can often be triggered by exercise, cold air, excitement, laughing or rough-housing. Exposure to environmental factors, such as cigarette smoke or other air pollution, can also bring on an asthma attack.
To diagnose asthma, your child’s doctor will do a complete physical exam of your child and ask you about what you have observed with regard to your child coughing, wheezing or complaining of a tight chest. Several other common childhood conditions have asthma-like symptoms, so your doctor will try to rule out other causes, such as hay fever and sinusitis.
There are a number of tests that are useful in diagnosing asthma and your child’s doctor may recommend a combination of:
- A lung function test, in which the doctor will use a spirometer to measure how quickly and how much air your child can exhale. Your child may have lung function tests at rest, after exercising and after taking asthma medication. This test can be performed on children as young as 2 to 3 years old.
- A chest X-ray, to look at the condition of your child’s lungs.
- An exhaled nitric oxide test, where your child will be asked to breathe into the mouthpiece of a special machine in order to measure the amount of inflammation present in the airways.
Your child will be cared for by a medical team with experience in treating asthma. While some children simply outgrow asthma-like symptoms over time, there are a number of medications that can safely and effectively treat asthma in children. Most of those medications are inhaled, and they include:
- Long-term control medications, which are used on a daily basis to prevent attacks.
- Quick relief, or rescue, medications, which are used to relieve symptoms during an attack.
Our asthma specialist team will also work closely with you to help you understand how to control the condition in order to keep your child safe and healthy.
The asthma action plan is very important to keeping asthma under control:
- It tells you what “asthma zone” you’re in base on how you are feeling, whether you are in the green, yellow, or red zone
- It tells you what medicines to take and when to take them
- It tells when to call the doctor or when to go to the emergency room.
All the people that care for your child should have a copy of your children’s asthma action plan. Please make sure babysitters, the daycare center, the school nurse have a copy of this form so they can help your child follow their action plan.
A copy of your child’s Asthma Action Plan can be found under "My Healthcare World", "Documents Letters" While you/your child is a part of the Asthma Management Program. When you are no longer in the program, check with your doctor for any changes to your Asthma Action Plan.
View our asthma action plan guide and view the video below about asthma action plans.
What causes asthma?
Asthma is a lung disease that affects your child’s ability to breathe. Asthma can be triggered by exercise, cold air, excitement, laughing or rough-housing. Exposure to environmental factors, such as cigarette smoke or other air pollution, can also bring on an asthma attack.
What is the outlook for my child with asthma?
While some children simply outgrow asthma-like symptoms over time, there are a number of medications that can safely and effectively treat children for whom this becomes a life-long condition.
What should I do if my child has an asthma attack?
During attacks, stay calm and soothe your child. This may help your child relax and breathe more easily. It is important to treat your child's asthma attacks quickly using the prescribed rescue inhaler. If your child does not improve soon after treating an attack, call your doctor immediately. Because it is often hard to know how much breathing difficulty a baby or small child is having, call 9-1-1 for emergency help right away.