How to Know if Your Child is Suffering from Asthma
Asthma is a condition that affects millions of children (and adults). In fact, some estimates suggest one out of every nine children is affected to some degree by asthma. Yet, because of its "hidden" symptoms, asthma may not initially be recognized.
It is very important to properly diagnosis asthma because it can cause the airways in the lungs to narrow due to spasm and inflammation. These hyper-reactive airways tighten-up when exposed to certain triggers (allergens, infections, cold air, etc.). As a result, less air is able to get into the lungs and breathing is impaired.
Common symptoms of asthma
- Coughing (especially at night, after exercise or when exposed to cold air)
- Chest tightness and inability to take a deep breath
- Chest congestion and frequent respiratory infections
- Shortness of breath
- Limited exercise endurance (your child cannot keep up with others and gets out of breath easily)
- Needless to say, at the very least these symptoms are bothersome and uncomfortable, but in extreme cases they can lead to severe breathing problems and even death.
What can I do to help?
- Visit your family doctor, pediatrician or allergist
- Give the child asthma medications as directed
- Carry rescue medications if advised by your child’s physician (albuterol is one example) in case of an unexpected asthma attack
- Develop an "asthma action plan" with your child’s school nurse
- Cover the child’s nose and mouth with a scarf when they are outdoors if they are affected with cold weather triggered asthma
- Minimize outdoor exercising along busy roads or in areas where outdoor pollution can further irritate the airways
- Avoid using wood stoves or wood fireplaces as particles released into the environment can irritate the airways
- Take a preventive dose of asthma medication 30 minutes before exercising if they have exercise induced asthma
- Avoid exposure to tobacco smoke
Lastly, speak with your child's physician to see if the influenza vaccine would be of help. This is especially important since children (and adults) with asthma are considered to be at higher risk for influenza-related health complications such as pneumonia and acute respiratory disease. They are also more likely to be hospitalized than others without asthma.
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