There are many things to think about and plan for when your child has asthma. It’s important to learn as much as you can about the condition.
Did you know that childhood asthma is the most prevalent chronic lung disease? Uncontrolled and undiagnosed asthma in children can result in countless hospital admissions.
“Going to the hospital leads to kids missing school and parents missing work. But with the proper therapy, you and your child can keep symptoms under control,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health, a leading provider of high-quality healthcare.
“Doctors can prevent permanent lung damage in developing lungs, and parents can ensure that their asthmatic child can still enjoy life to the fullest.”
What is asthma?
Asthma is a common condition of the airways. Asthma causes the airway muscles to contract. The airway lining swells and becomes irritated, creating thick mucus. These changes restrict the airways, making it difficult to breathe. Restricted airways can lead to coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and tightness in the chest.
What causes asthma in children?
Children’s lungs and airways become inflamed with asthma. Especially when exposed to triggers. Triggers include pollen or contracting a cold or other respiratory illness.
Most children with asthma show symptoms before the age of five. The bronchial tubes, which allow air to enter and exit the lungs, are tiny in newborns and toddlers. Colds of the head, chest, and elsewhere can inflame these airways.
Is asthma in childhood dangerous?
18.5 deaths per 100 000 cases of asthma in children rank South Africa sixth worldwide. The ranking is due to the lack of diagnosis, treatment, and access to care.
Symptoms of childhood asthma
Paediatric asthma symptoms can range from a cough to sudden breathing problems. Common warning indicators that parents should be aware of include:
- Coughing during the night.
- A wheezing or whistling sound is often heard during exhalation.
- Inability to breathe or rapid breathing.
- Frequent chest infections that linger.
Childhood asthma may also result in fatigue. Fatigue may also be due to sleep disturbances because of shortness of breath or wheezing at night.
“Children may only show one of these symptoms,” says Hewlett. “In some instances, asthma symptoms may be mistaken for a cold or bronchitis. Hence, consult your health care provider if symptoms persist. Early treatment will aid in symptom management and may prevent asthma attacks.”
How is asthma diagnosed in children?
If asthma and allergies run in your family, inform your doctor. If you have a family history of asthma, your child is more likely to develop these conditions. Often, asthma is diagnosed with a medical examination and an airflow test. Especially when diagnosing young children. Diagnosing children can be complicated.
Children younger than preschool age may be unable to perform the airflow test. It includes vigorous blowing into a tube. And infants and toddlers cannot articulate their emotions. This makes it crucial for parents, family and caregivers to be aware of signs of asthma in children.
When to seek emergency medical care
If your child has been diagnosed with asthma, an asthma plan can help you track symptoms.
In extreme circumstances, you may observe your child’s chest and sides contracting as they struggle to breathe. Your child may experience an elevated heart rate, profuse sweating, and chest pain. Seek immediate medical care if your child:
- Has to pause in the middle of a sentence to collect their breath.
- Uses their abdominal muscles to breathe.
- Has wider nostrils when inhaling.
- Strives so hard to inhale that the abdomen caves in.
Can asthma attacks in children be prevented?
Although it is difficult to know when an attack will occur or how to prevent it, once you have identified triggers through allergy tests or through keeping a log of what causes your attacks, it is possible to work out a plan to avoid the stressors. These may include:
- Keeping your child’s environment super clean so that you can reduce exposure to dust and mould.
- Using natural cleaning products and toiletries to avoid chemical irritants, smells or products that have caused previous attacks.
- Eliminating foods that your child is allergic to.
- Not smoking around your child.