WHAT IS CHILDHOOD ASTHMA?
Asthma is a condition characterized by swelling and inflammation in the airways that make breathing difficult. Asthma in children, called Childhood Asthma, can be very hard to recognize. Most children with Asthma will have symptoms before the age of five; however the symptoms are usually attributed to other respiratory illnesses. All types of Asthma are considered chronic conditions that, if left untreated, can damage the airways (bronchi) in the lungs.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Symptoms to look for include wheezing or whistling when breathing, persistent coughing, rapid or labored breathing, weakness and lethargy. The response may be triggered by an allergen (Allergic Asthma), so it is important to note when and where the attacks occur. Conditions that can increase the risk of a child developing Childhood Asthma include low birth weight, frequent respiratory infections, a family history of allergies or Asthma and exposure to second-hand smoke.
HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED?
Asthma is typically diagnosed through a physical exam and performing a lung function test. As this test requires blowing into a spirometer to measure the total flow of air in and out of the lungs, it is difficult to get very young children to do the test correctly. If Allergic Asthma is suspected, a skin prick test can help identify or rule out allergens. Diagnosis is confirmed if the child’s symptoms are reduced or eliminated when quick-acting bronchodilators are given.
WHAT ARE THE TREATMENT OPTIONS?
Avoidance is the best option if a specific allergen is identified as triggering the response. Your Esse Health doctor will recommend inhaled medications to reduce the symptoms. A nebulizer is a machine with a compressor, tubing and mask that can deliver medication as an aerosol. It is used on infants and toddlers that are too young to use an inhaler. Inhaled medications called bronchodilators act quickly to reduce the swelling and inflammation and restore breathing. It is possible that your child may outgrow Childhood Asthma, but treatment is essential to avoid lung damage. Your Esse Health doctor will work with you to create a treatment plan for your child.