Asthma is a very common respiratory disease condition in children which presents with sudden episodes of breathlessness and wheezing. Allergies is the most common etiology identified in asthma cases and is known to run in families.
According to WHO reports, Asthma accounts for maximum absenteeism in schools due to its episodic clinical presentation.
Why does Asthma occur ?
The exact mechanism of asthma can be explained by throwing some light on normal breathing mechanisms in children. Normally a child breathes effortlessly by inhaling oxygen and exhaling out carbon dioxide. The inhaled air is taken in through nasal passages and mouth which then travels down to the lungs with the help of breathing tubes called bronchi.
In asthma, child experiences shortness of breath as the bronchi go into a state of spasm due to inflammation leading to narrowing of the airways. This causes the child to breathe harder with much efforts. Soon, the copying mechanisms fail and the child lands up in distress with desperate need for oxygen. With prompt treatment, this condition can be reversed and child begins to breathe normally in a few days.
Asthma is a periodic illness and attacks can be triggered due to a number of external factors including stress. Raising a child with asthma can be very challenging for every parent and create a lot of anxiety as to when and what can flare up their symptoms.
Following are a few guidelines about the disease to help your child breathe his asthmatic troubles away and lead a normal active life ahead.
How to know if my child has Asthma :
Suspect asthma if your child has the following:
- Cough of allergic nature ,dry , more at night – child wakes up often
- Difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath.
- Child feels breathless on exertional activities like exercise, playing outdoors etc.
- Choking sensation and tight feeling in chest
- Whistling sound heard from the chest when child inspires
- Allergic symptoms like runny nose ,sneezing ,watery eyes
- Recurrent colds during winter or change of weather
- Appearance of rash or hives
- Complaints are triggered when the child is exposed to allergens like dust, smoke, pollens, pollution, animal danders, strong odors like paint, perfumes etc.
- History of allergies or asthma in family – either parent or sibling
- Emotional stressors – fear, anger, grief, failure is known to trigger onset of asthma in children.
- Infants with allergic symptoms and recurrent colds can be an indication of asthma in later life.
Warning signs in Asthma:
- Child is in respiratory distress and gasping for air
- Bluish discoloration of skin – fingers and toes ,lips
- Profuse sweating and increased heart rate
- Loud breathing and audible whistling sound from chest
- Child is irresponsive and sluggish
What to do if your child has Asthma :
Asthma as an illness can present itself from a mild allergic cough to a life threatening situation.
Talk to your doctor:
- If you notice the above symptoms in your child and feel he/she might be at risk, talk to your pediatrician.
- Get your facts and myths cleared with your doctor and obtain enough information.
- Seek appropriate therapeutic measures to help your child deal with the condition.
Precautionary measures and Prevention :
- Identify specific external triggers which can precipitate an asthmatic attack and keep your child away from them if possible.
- If your child has food allergies which may be causing asthma, avoid those foods.
- Inform the school authorities about your child’s asthma for them to act spontaneously if your child gets an attack during school hours or while playing.
- Keep your house clean and well humidified devoid of dust and smoke.
- Check your house for moulds, fungus and other insects.
- Get rid of pets if any in the house as animal dander can trigger asthma.
- Teach your child small breathing exercises like blowing air into a balloon or paper bag which can increase lung capacity and improve lung function.
- Modify your child’s lifestyle and make necessary changes needed for a healthier life ahead for your child.
- Be vigilant about your child’s health and the environment around your family.
- Maintain a diary or journal and record your child’s symptoms, periodicity of attacks, triggering factors etc. This will help in assessing his health condition and identifying the factors which cause the asthma to flare up.
Asthma is a well-controlled disease and is rarely life threatening if proper care and action are taken. Children continue to live a normal healthy life with no restrictions in daily activities. Parents are advised to avoid restrictions to their children as asthma should not be an obstacle for your child not to pursue recreational activities.
Parents need to be supportive and work together with their doctor in order to provide their child a healthy future and breathe away the asthma blues.