Asthma in Children

by Rebekah Scott
(last updated May 20, 2010)

Asthma is the leading chronic illness and one of the top causes of hospitalization in children and adolescents. Because asthma has become so prevalent in many children, it accounts for millions of school absences every year. Research has proven that allergies are the number one cause of asthma problems. There are also other environmental and individual health factors that can cause asthma such as second-hand smoke, pollution, weather conditions or drastic changes in the weather, infections, illnesses, and exercise. Because asthma may lay hidden in a child for quite some time, parents may not be aware of their child's illness he or she experiences any of the symptoms that are associated with this condition. These symptoms can include shortness of breath, a tight feeling in the chest, coughing, and wheezing. Even if a child has experienced these symptoms, many parents may not think to ask their doctor about asthma until their child experiences an asthma attack. During an asthma attack the passageways that carry air to the lungs become swollen and tightened. This seriously complicates an asthma sufferer's ability to draw in enough air to catch their breath. In serious cases where there is no medical intervention, asthma attacks can be fatal. These attacks are particularly dangerous for children because their airways are already smaller than those of a grown adult. If a parent has any inclination that their child has asthma, the family physician should be consulted right away. Doctors will usually prescribe two types of asthma medication -- a quick-relief medication that stops symptoms as they occur, and a long-term medication that prevents symptoms from ever happening. Inhalers are a popular way of delivering fast acting asthma medications. With inhalers, the medication is housed within a pump that is placed inside the mouth. When pumped, a mist of medication is released that is inhaled into the lungs. Small children may need to practice taking deep breaths when the inhaler is pumped, and some may need adults to pump the inhaler for them. For long term care, anti-inflammatory medications such as steroids will help prevent asthma attacks from being triggered. These types of medications keep airways free of mucous and reduce the amount of swelling can occur. Parental involvement is key to maintaining a child's asthma related problems. Parents who have children with asthma need to make sure that their child always has their quick-relief medication with them in the event of an attack. They also need to be vigilant and make sure that he or she is consistently taking the prescribed dosage of their long term medications. Parents can also try to control or eliminate environmental factors that may cause or worsen their child's asthma. Parents also have an obligation to tell teachers, school administrators, babysitters, and other parents that their child has asthma, and what should be done if their child has an asthma attack when they are not present. With a network of support, children with asthma can be taken care of and saved from life threatening circumstances.

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