Asthma is a long-term lung condition that causes breathing difficulties. Most of the time, it appears during childhood. There is no current cure for asthma, but the right treatment plan will help keep symptoms in check and will prevent any complications. If your child suffers from asthma, regular pediatric care is a necessity.
The best asthma care that you can find is at the Pediatrics of Sugarland clinic. Contact us today to book your appointment.
Childhood Asthma Q&A
What is asthma?
Asthma is a common and chronic respiratory condition responsible for breathing difficulties. During an asthma attack, the airways (or bronchi) become inflamed and constricted, thus making it hard to breathe. An asthma attack is usually the result of exposure to a triggering factor. Different forms of asthma exist, some are mild and will resolve as the child grows older, while others are more severe, or can be associated with other conditions.
What are the causes of asthma?
Several factors are linked to the development of asthma in children. Some of these factors are endogenous and they include genetics and the child’s immune system. While others are exogenous and include exposure to environmental factors like dust, pollen, or pet hair, as well as other possible triggering factors like physical exercise and cold weather.
What are the symptoms of asthma?
Although asthma is a common condition, it is easy to miss the diagnosis in the pediatric population because not all children will be able to express their respiratory discomfort.
Older children may report symptoms like chest tightness, difficulty breathing, or excessive phlegm, while in younger infants, asthma can be suspected if the child displays frequent wheezing, coughing, or other signs of respiratory distress.
These symptoms will be more predictive of asthma if they occur at night time, and are made worse by factors like cold weather, physical exercise, or during allergy season.
What exactly happens during an asthma attack?
An asthma attack happens when the respiratory system is exposed to an allergen or an irritating factor like strong scents or smoke. When the airways come in contact with such a substance, an inflammatory response is triggered. During this inflammatory response, the bronchi (airways) will constrict, making their diameter narrower which makes it harder for the air not only to be breathed in but also to be breathed out.
This causes the air to be trapped in the lungs, which in addition to the narrow airways makes it almost impossible to breathe.
The diameter of the airways is further narrowed as a result of excessive phlegm production by the inner lining of the bronchi. The combination of the constriction of the airways and the phlegm production narrows the diameter of the airways further, thus being responsible for the wheezing sound associated with an asthma attack.
Since the air is trapped in, the carbon dioxide that the body produces as a result of different metabolic reactions cannot be exhaled. This will be responsible for various complications such as loss of consciousness and interrupting the acid-base balance of the body.
Since oxygen cannot be breathed in, the brain and other organs will also suffer and will not be able to perform their usual functions. In the absence of treatment, a severe asthma attack can be fatal.
How to treat asthma?
Depending on the severity of the condition, an effective treatment plan will be based on the following:
– Identifying the triggering factor and preventing exposure to it. Common triggering factors include pollen, dust, mites, pet hair, strong scents, and mold.
– In some cases, an asthma attack can be caused by another health problem (like a respiratory infection or stress). In this case, it’s important to treat both the asthma exacerbation and the underlying condition.
– Symptomatic treatment is mainly based on inhaled bronchodilators. These medications will help dilate the airways thus making it easier to breathe during an asthma attack.
– In more severe cases, doctors will associate steroids with bronchodilators for a more effective treatment plan.
Regardless of the severity of asthma and the treatment plan prescribed, it’s very important to advise the child and the parents to go to the nearest Emergency Department if the usual treatment becomes ineffective or if the child experiences symptoms of respiratory distress (turning blue, dizziness, and loss of consciousness…)
Why does a child with asthma need pediatric care?
Although asthma is quite common in children, it can be a life-threatening condition if it’s not taken care of properly. A doctor will be able to prescribe the correct treatment plan, identify the triggering factors, and help manage any complications of asthma or its treatment (sleep problems, stunted growth, or obesity).
Regularly consulting a physician will also help to monitor the child’s health more closely, while giving the family the advice and therapeutic education necessary to manage their child’s condition.
Last but not least, children with a chronic condition can sadly be the target of bullying. A specialist will give the child the tools and guidance necessary to maintain normal functioning and will be a source of support in case of mental health repercussions.