How children with asthma can be helped to cope

Statistics in the last 40 years have shown us that child asthma problems have increased by 160% since the 80s. At present no less than five million children in the USA suffer from this problem.

What is asthma in children?

In a nutshell, asthma is an illness that causes persistent respiratory problems, airflow restrictions, and hyper breathing reactions to external stimuli such as allergens. Somewhere between 50% and 80% of childhood asthma cases are characterized by the development of symptoms before the age of five. Parents are advised to pay attention if their child has repeated difficulties which seem to be common respiratory infections.

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Child asthma problems are usually harder to detect in a simple routine doctor’s office visit. If any suspicion exists a medical test should be taken. More than 75% of childhood asthma cases present some other form of a pediatric allergy too. Therefore, many doctors make the connection and also look at the child’s health history, searching especially for allergies and what triggers them. It is quite probable that a reaction repeatedly happens in response to the same stimuli.

Children with asthma actually have a far more positive outlook than many realize, even though there is no known direct cure for the disease. As long as the correct lifestyle adjustments are made and adhered to, there is no reason why the condition will not disappear as the child approaches adulthood. A lot will depend on the exact nature of the individual asthma case, on the trigger factors which are prevalent in the atmosphere, and on how the condition is treated.

What asthma causes in our children

Asthma results from a combination of two kinds of factors:

– Predisposing factors, congenital, which constitute the “field”.

– Immune-allergic, psychological or environment-related predisposing factors.

Pediatric asthma is due to many causes, including eczema, smoking when pregnant, pollution, allergies, colds and viral infections. Besides these, a trigger may result from pets, drugs, dust, pollen, smoke, snuff, etc. youngsters’ airways are narrower than those of grownups so that the or allergens that cause small difficulties in grownups can cause more serious troubles in youngsters. This might cause an abrupt start with serious symptoms.

Also referred to as allergic asthma (atopic or extrinsic) where the major cause is allergic and non-allergic (intrinsic) when including other infectious factors seem to predominate.

The first key to successfully treating asthma in children is to diagnose the condition as accurately as possible, and this is rarely easy. There are different factors that can trigger an attack and more than one type of asthma. Some cases are caused by factors that are present in the modern home, such as dust mites. It is believed that excessive exposure to dust mites can make an infant more likely to become asthmatic as they grow and reach childhood. Keeping the environment of a young baby free from dust contaminants is extremely sensible and you may never know how much suffering you will have saved the child as they grow up. Usually, child asthma treatments begin with a large dosage of the medication for an immediate effect. After the child’s state has been stabilized, the medication is reduced until it reaches the minimum dosage this child needs for avoiding crises. This minimum dosage also helps the child maintain an overall healthy state. A serious investigation is also performed to check the medical records of the other family members.

How is child asthma different from the adult versions?

The four levels of asthma are differentiated by the intensity of the symptoms. Child asthma is more difficult to treat until a clear diagnosis has been reached. After diagnosis, the same treatments that adults use are applied; the only difference consists in dosage and the intensity of the treatment.

The field of allergic asthma

The influence of the “field” allergic, which is to say, heredity is very important before puberty and especially in young children. There are links between allergic manifestations and HLA (major histocompatibility complex). There is an inherited predisposition to the production of IgE to the surrounding allergens, bronchial hyperresponsiveness, and disturbances in the chemical mediators or the autonomic nervous system.

Keeping children with asthma in an environment where they are constantly exposed to trigger factors is obviously the worst thing you can possibly do, but it is not always possible to remove them completely. It is extremely difficult being a parent in a situation where you know that environmental pollutants are affecting your child’s health, but where you are simply unable to do anything about it. This can often happen in situations where the parents have to work on or near a polluted highway very close to a city.

From birth, the baby may develop an allergy.

Children breastfed have fewer allergies than those fed cow’s milk events. Breast milk provides some immunological defense and prevents the newborn to raise the protein in cow’s milk considered as “foreign” by the body of the child. Breastfeeding is highly recommended when there is a family history of allergy.

Atopic eczema is often associated with asthma. Often the child suffers from eczema during the first two years and then the skin condition disappears being replaced by the respiratory disease. The reasons for this relationship are not known.

Asthma and risks for the expectant mother

You can’t get pregnant if you have asthma! Some gynecologists adhere to this opinion. Is asthma really an absolute contraindication to pregnancy? Scientists assure that if you follow the doctor’s recommendations, then there is no need to abandon motherhood. More about asthma during pregnancy.

Intal therapy

For children 5 years and older, one option is Intal, which has been available for more than 35 years. It works by preventing certain cells from releasing substances that may cause inflammation in the air passages.

If there is an early diagnosis of asthma children will be far more likely to be able to keep the condition under control. It has been demonstrated in scientific trials and tests that children who used an inhaler with corticosteroids within a year of suffering their first asthma attack were far more able to keep the condition under control than those who waited several years before they began to treat the symptoms in this way. Even though the drugs used are not curative, there appears to be a cumulative effect from their use which reduces the inflammation of the lungs and airways. It is important to monitor your children and make sure that they are following the prescription of the physician to the letter.

How can parents prevent a child’s asthma attacks?

Avoiding exposure to triggers or allergens is the best way you can prevent asthma attacks in a child since he or she is too young to know what conditions aggravate his or her condition.

– In the case of over-the-counter medications, do not administrate any aspirin or ibuprofen medication to your young asthma prone child.

– Make sure that he or she doesn’t change environments with different temperatures.

– Getting ill is the first step to an asthma attack, therefore asthma in child cases is so much associated with a sinus or throat infection for instance.

– Another health condition that can aggravate a child’s asthma is a heartburn episode; the acid reflux may get into the airways and trigger a crisis.

– By all means, keep your child away from unhealthy food, additives such as sulfite that are present in dehydrated soups can trigger an asthma crisis.

– For the children that suffer from allergic asthma, there are high chances that they have a food sensitivity; therefore it is essential to run a medical examination or an alternative toxin testing and determine the food allergens that should be kept away.

Asthma in child cases may also appear because of parents’ negligence; sometimes there is tobacco smoke, polluted air, and even perfume with which the child may have direct contact.

Scientists have also indicated that a strenuous physical exercise, which often creates shortness of breath, is responsible for some crises of asthma in child cases.

Asthma and obesity

Many children with asthma are also overweight, and there is a definite link between obesity and asthma. If you can help your child to lose weight and achieve a higher level of fitness, you will be going a long way towards helping them cope with the condition. This needs to be done in the right way, though, with the emphasis being put on eating healthily and avoiding junk food. Attempting to burn off excess weight through exercise can actually be counterproductive, as there is strong evidence to suggest that over-exertion when exercising actually worsens the condition of children with asthma.

Education and paying attention is key

Child asthma education should include lessons so the children learn about the importance of respecting the medication and the symptoms that they might suffer. Children must also know about the factors that trigger their symptoms. They must learn which specific ones are problems, and how they should be avoided.


This article is written by Carl Lawyer, M.D. pulmonology and sleep medicine specialist, a general practitioner who provides a wide range of services for the treatment of lung diseases and sleep disorders. Dr. Carl Lawyer graduated from medical school at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver, Colorado. He is available for inpatient and outpatient consultation on a variety of pulmonary-related issues, including acute and chronic respiratory failure, asthma, lung cancer, and COPD.

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