Asthma is a disease caused by long-term inflammation of the bronchioles (breathing passages) of the lungs. In children having asthma, the airways and lungs get inflamed easily as a result of exposure to triggers such as pollen. Childhood asthma may even flare up because of a cold or respiratory infection. The common signs and symptoms of childhood asthma include:
The first sign noticed in children with asthma is recurrent wheezing from a respiratory infection. The symptoms of asthma differ in children; some may worsen or get better over time. Children, who are exposed to certain triggers, become highly sensitive which causes the lungs and airways to swell up and produce mucus. Some of the triggers include common cold, weather changes, physical activity, and air pollutants such as smoke, dust mites, animal dander, and pollen.
Asthma is difficult to diagnose, your pediatric doctor will ask about the frequency of symptoms and may order some tests to rule out other conditions and identify the cause of your child’s symptoms. In children who are 6 years and above, lung function test (spirometry) is done to measure the amount of air exhaled by your child. Allergy skin testing may also be done. In younger children, diagnosis is done based on the information provided about symptoms because lung function tests will be inaccurate before the 6 years.
Treatment of asthma includes prevention of symptoms and treatment of progressive asthma attacks. Long-term control medications such as inhaled corticosteroids, leukotriene modifiers, and theophylline are preventive medications that can be taken every day to reduce inflammation of the child’s airways. Quick-relief medications such as short acting beta agonists, oral and intravenous corticosteroids provide rapid relief from symptoms during an asthma attack.
Inhaled short- and long-term control medications are used by inhaling measured amounts of the medication. For infants, a face mask attached to a metered dose inhaler is used which helps the child to inhale correct amount of medicine. In older children a small hand-held device or a pressurized metered dose inhaler is used which releases fine powder of medicine that is easier for the child to inhale.