Asthma is a chronic, inflammatory condition that affects the airways. It results in wheezing and makes it hard to breathe. While asthma affects adults, it is also the most common long-term condition in children.
Childhood asthma, also known as peadiatric asthma, is defined as asthma in children, infants, or toddlers. Childhood asthma is a condition in which your child’s airway narrows and swells, making it hard for air to get in and out. Asthma can also lead to an excessive buildup of mucus (a slippery, aqueous solution produced by many lining tissues in the body) in the lungs, further making it difficult for your child to breathe.
Childhood asthma is the same as adult asthma but children face unique challenges. Sadly, childhood asthma can’t be cured and symptoms walk through adulthood. But with timely treatment, your child and you can control the symptoms and can prevent damage to growing lungs.
Symptoms of Childhood Asthma
Wheezing (high-pitched whistling sound made by your child while breathing)
Your child may experience these symptoms often at night, or early in the morning. Symptoms generally flare-up in the night because of increased exposure to allergens from bedding, pillows, and mattresses while sleeping. Similarly, during the early hours of the morning, levels of the hormones (cortisol and estrogen) that protect against asthma symptoms are at their lowest, and thus, your child may experience aggravated symptoms.
Sometimes symptoms can worsen over hours or minutes, leading to severe obstruction of the airways known as an asthma attack.
Causes of Childhood Asthma
1. Environmental Factors: Exposure to smoking, passive /active, either through a mother who smokes during pregnancy or once a baby is born, is known to increase the risk of asthma and this can contribute to poor lung function throughout childhood.
Allergens (foreign substances that cause the immune system to induce a reaction) such as house dust mites and animal hair can also contribute to the development of asthma.
2. Genetic Factors: Asthma and allergies have strong links with the genes inherited from parents.
3. Exercise: Exercise can also cause asthma exacerbations (sudden increase in the severity of a problem).
4. Other causative factors include:
Previous allergic reactions
Living in an area with high air pollution levels
Low birth weight
Tips to Prevent Asthma
The best way to prevent asthma attacks in children is to carefully plan and avoid asthma triggers.
1. Don't let anyone smoke around your child. When your child inhales tobacco smoke, irritating substances settle in the moist lining of the airways, which may lead to an asthma attack.
2. Reducing exposure to allergens, such as dust mites, animal fur, molds, pollen which may trigger asthma.
- Wash your child’s bedding and pillow covers in hot water every week and make sure to dry them in the sun.
- If possible, remove carpets and rugs from your child’s bedroom or play area.
- Keep the house clean and vacuum it regularly to get rid of dust mites and molds.
4. Focus on your child's weight. Asthma is more common in overweight/obese children. Unhealthy body weight can make asthma symptoms worse and difficult to control. The fat tissues of the body produce inflammatory substances that might affect the lungs and trigger asthma.
5. Keep a check on heartburn (also known as acid indigestion or acid reflux). Acid reflux is a condition where some of the stomach contents are forced back up into the food pipe. Acid reflux can cause asthmatic symptoms such as coughing, chest pain, and difficulty in breathing. If your child experiences acid reflux frequently, keep a track of foods that cause it and try not to include them in your child’s diet.
6. Regular physical activity will help the lungs work more efficiently. Encourage your child to stay active, exercise, and play regularly to keep his/her asthma under control. Staying physically active will also help maintain your child’s weight which is important to reduce the risk of asthma attacks. Seek advice on what kind of exercises and for how long can the exercises be done, from your doctor. In some cases, overexertion can lead to an asthma attack.
Stay in touch with your child’s doctor regularly to monitor progress and to outline the next steps.
1. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. 2021. Prevention Of Allergies And Asthma In Children TTR | AAAAI. [online] Available at: <https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/prevention-of-allergies-and-asthma-in-children> [Accessed 15 January 2021].
2. ACAAI Public Website. 2021. Asthma In Children. [online] Available at: <https://acaai.org/asthma/asthma-101/asthma-in-children> [Accessed 16 January 2021].
3. HealthyChildren.org. 2021. Exercise And Asthma. [online] Available at: <https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/allergies-asthma/Pages/Exercise-and-Asthma.aspx> [Accessed 16 January 2021].
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