Did you know that asthma is the most common chronic lung disease in children? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it affects approximately 6 million children in the United States. Poorly controlled and undiagnosed asthma in young kids can result in trips to the emergency room, hospital stays, missed workdays for parents and suffering that many young kids can’t express.
There are many ways an allergist can help. The goal is for your child to feel well and live a healthy and active life. With the care of an allergist, there is no reason your child can’t do everything they want and be as active as they choose.
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Most children with asthma have symptoms before they turn five. The bronchial tubes – the passageways that allow air to enter and leave the lungs – in infants, toddlers and preschoolers are small and narrow. Head colds, chest colds and other illnesses can inﬂame these airways, making them even smaller. In very young children, it may be hard for parents, and even doctors, to recognize when symptoms are caused by asthma.
The signs of childhood asthma can range from a cough that lingers for days or weeks to sudden and scary breathing emergencies. Common signs parents should be on the lookout for include:
- Coughing, especially at night
- A wheezing or whistling sound, especially when breathing out
- Trouble breathing or fast breathing that causes the skin around the ribs or neck to pull in tightly
- Frequent colds that settle in the chest
Your child might have only one of these symptoms or several of them. You may think it’s just a cold or even bronchitis. If the symptoms recur, that’s an indication that your child might have asthma. In addition, symptoms may get worse when your child is around asthma triggers, such as irritants in the air (e.g., smoke or strong odors) or allergens like pollen, pet dander or dust mites.
Tell your child’s pediatrician if anyone in your family has asthma or allergies because both tend to run in families. If another family member has asthma or allergies, it’s more likely that your child will have them.
Asthma is typically diagnosed through a medical exam and a test that measures airflow in and out of the lungs. Diagnosing kids presents unique challenges, especially when they are very young. Children who are preschool age or younger may not be able to complete the airflow test, which requires blowing very hard into a tube. And infants and toddlers can’t describe how they feel. This makes it especially important for parents, other family members and caregivers to know the signs of asthma in kids and to be alert for symptoms.
Your allergist may perform skin or blood tests to see whether your child has allergies that can trigger asthma symptoms. These tests can be done at any age. Your allergist may also prescribe one or more asthma medicines. If your child gets better while taking the medicine, that can be a sign that your child’s symptoms are due to asthma.
No parent wants to see their child suffer. If your son or daughter is struggling with allergies or asthma, take control of the situation and consult an allergist today.
Treatment and Management
It’s very important that children with asthma receive proper treatment. An allergist can set your child on the right track for long-term control by helping you create an action plan with treatment goals for your child. With the right treatment, your child can sleep through the night, avoid missing day care or school and breathe more easily. The treatment plan should help you determine when your child’s asthma is under control, when you need to change medicines and when emergency help is needed.
I definitely think seeing an allergist has freed Taylor up and changed her life for the better.
Your child’s treatment will depend on the severity and frequency of their symptoms. To deal with childhood asthma, your allergist may prescribe two types of medicines:
- Quick relief: Any child who has asthma needs a quick-relief medicine to treat the noisy part of the disease – coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath or an asthma attack. This medicine (typically an inhaler) should always be with your child for use at the first sign of symptoms.
- Long-term control: This type of medicine is needed by some children to treat the quiet and dangerous part of asthma – the inﬂammation of the airways. This medication is taken daily to prevent asthma symptoms and attacks.
Kids can take both medicines using an inhaler with a spacer, or a device called a holding chamber, which helps to ensure that all the medication reaches the lungs. Another option is a nebulizer – a machine that includes compressor tubing and a mask to help deliver the medication. Your allergist, nurse or pharmacist can teach you how to use both, so you can determine what works best for your child.
Asthma medicines are very safe and effective when used as directed. Some studies have suggested that continued use of long-term control medicines can slightly slow growth in children, but it is vital to their health to treat their asthma symptoms.
Children with asthma should also get a flu shot each fall. Even though the injected version of the vaccine contains a very small amount of egg protein, it is safe for kids who have egg allergy.
Work with staff at your child’s school to make sure they are aware of your child’s treatment plan and that they know what to do if your child has an asthma attack. Your school may keep a supply of certain asthma medications in the nurse’s office. Involve coaches and other caretaking adults in the plan. Talk with your child about the asthma plan for school and for other places where the child spends time without you. Teach your child what to do if they have an asthma flare-up, if they find themselves around allergens or other triggers or if they forget their medicine.
Allergies and asthma don’t have to hold your child back. Visit an allergist, start treatment and watch your child’s symptoms fade into the background. You will see your child emerge, active and living their best life!