Finding out your child has asthma is frightening for any parent. Chances are, you’re full of questions and concerns. Dr. Neil Singhania, a native Texan and a specialist in adult and pediatric asthma, allergy and immunology, took a few minutes to answer our most pressing questions about childhood asthma. Here’s what he had to say:
What is asthma?
Asthma is a chronic condition that causes inflammation in the large and small airways of lungs. When the airways become inflamed, they can constrict and become blocked with mucus. The airways can narrow, limiting airflow and oxygen delivery to the vital organs. This inflammation makes it hard to breathe and can cause coughing, wheezing and a tight feeling in the chest. In the U.S. there are 7 million children who have asthma, resulting in nearly 14 million missed school days a year.
Asthma triggers are different for everyone. Fall is quickly approaching and that means that ragweed pollen, a common trigger, is abundant. Other triggers include pollution and changes in temperature, as well as allergens like dust mites and mold.
Infections including viral illnesses are another important trigger. Now that kids are back in school, illnesses spread easily – for an asthmatic that may be especially problematic. It’s a good idea for you and your child to get the flu vaccine to reduce the likelihood of getting the flu, which can worsen asthma symptoms.
Every child’s asthma is different, so it’s important to track your own child’s asthma triggers to help manage their condition.
How can I help my child cope with asthma?
Asthma is not a curable condition, but it’s treatable. There are several steps you can take to ensure your child manages his symptoms.
1. Visit a doctor. Asthma is unique to every sufferer, so taking your child to see a physician is important to ensure that the right treatment plan is in place. It’s also important that your child knows about his medication. If your child has persistent asthma, inflammation in the lungs may be present even if symptoms like coughing or wheezing aren’t outwardly present. In order to prevent inflammation in the lungs, a controller inhaler should be used and your child should be taking it daily as prescribed. The National Institute of Health (NIH) recommends inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) as a first-line treatment for persistent asthma.
2. Have a plan. If you don’t have an Asthma Action Plan for your child, now is a good time to create one. An Asthma Action Plan is developed so that parents and teachers know how to respond when a child has an asthma attack at school or at home. This plan can help you and your physician keep track of your child’s symptoms and how often they occur, as well as how often your child is using his rescue inhaler. If your child needs a rescue inhaler such as albuterol more than twice a week, talk to your doctor as this typically indicates a lack of asthma control. Communication is key.
3. Know the condition. The best way to cope with asthma is to understand it. The more you know about your child’s asthma, the better you can prevent exacerbations. There are many resources available for parents and caregivers to get more information about the condition. A great online resource is GetSmartAboutAsthma.com, a comprehensive website where caregivers can learn more about asthma management, as well as access facts and figures relating to asthma. GetSmartAboutAsthma.com also provides useful downloadable toolkits to help parents track and manage their child’s asthma.
For more information on childhood asthma and Dr. Singhania visit metroplexallergy.com.