Have you been told your child has asthma? For many parents, this can be a somewhat scary diagnosis. But the good news is: the condition can be managed effectively.
If your child has asthma, he or she isn’t alone. According to recent estimates, around 6.2 million American children have been diagnosed with the condition. That makes it one of the more common conditions among our kids.
What should you know if your child is diagnosed? Finley Leslie, nurse practitioner with West Tennessee Medical Group, shares some insight.
Things to Know About Asthma #1: The Symptoms May Seem Scary
Because asthma is a condition that causes airway inflammation, it causes a number of symptoms that will affect your child’s ability to breathe. That can be alarming to see as a parent.
Asthma can sometimes be caused by an infection of the upper respiratory tract, such as the common cold or the flu. (And COVID-19, it turns out.)
When the airways tighten up and inflame, your child may experience frequent colds affecting the chest, chest tightness or pain, coughing, shortness of breath, problems sleeping due to difficulty breathing and wheezing.
Of those symptoms, coughing is the most common. But it’s not just any old cough.
If your child is experiencing a wet cough, particularly during the daytime, it’s likely not associated with asthma. Asthma typically causes a chronic, dry cough that occurs more commonly during the night.
Things to Know About Asthma #2: It’s Important to Learn the Triggers
While the underlying cause of asthma symptoms can sometimes be unknown, it’s much more common to be able to pinpoint a specific trigger.
In many cases, those “triggers” can be avoided, which can help your child avoid inflammation and subsequent symptoms.
In kids, asthma is often triggered by some common factors:
- Dust mites
- Tobacco exposure
- Weather changes
If your child has asthma and you smoke, it’s a good time to talk with your doctor about smoking cessation. This can help your child avoid tobacco exposure, including secondhand smoke, which is a known cause of asthma flare-ups.
When dust mites are to blame for asthma flare-ups, consider using plastic bed sheets and pillow cases in your child’s bedroom. Dust mites have a tendency to live within bedding, which can expose your child to this asthma trigger as he or she sleeps.
If your child’s asthma seems to flare up as allergy season hits, you aren’t imagining things. Since pollen can trigger asthma, the season might more aptly be called “allergy and asthma season.” To help limit this trigger, carefully watch the pollen count and keep your child indoors when it’s high, use your AC instead of opening the windows, change your air filters regularly and use specialized allergy filters, and have your child shower when coming in from outdoors.
While most triggers are best avoided, it’s important to note that exercise is the exception to the rule. If your child experienced exercise-related asthma, he or she still needs to exercise. Your medical provider can talk you through ways to help alleviate your child’s asthma while still allowing your son or daughter to get the physical activity needed.
Things to Know About Asthma #3: An Inhaler Isn’t the Only Treatment Option
When you think of asthma, you may logically think of an inhaler. But while this is a common treatment method for an asthma flare-up, it’s not the only way the condition is treated.
Your child’s medical provider will recommend treatment based on the severity of your child’s asthma. For more minor cases with only occasional flare-ups, an inhaler may be all that’s needed.
What is an inhaler? It’s also often called a “rescue” medication, and the medication is breathed into the lungs to relieve symptoms. This type of medication works by expanding or dilating the airways, which makes breathing easier.
For those who have more persistent asthma, an inhaled steroid may be prescribed. This type of medication, which is usually taken twice a day every day, helps prevent asthma symptoms from occurring.
If your child has both seasonal allergies and asthma, an oral medication may also be prescribed in conjunction with the inhaled steroid.
Whether your child is using an inhaler on occasion or an inhaled steroid daily, it’s important that a spacer device be used with the inhaler. This device, which is prescribed by a medical provider, helps ensure the medication is distributed into the lungs, rather than the mouth, throat or stomach.
Wondering whether your child’s symptoms are asthma? Your primary care provider can help you make the call. Find a Provider