A guide to childhood asthma

A guide to childhood asthma

Asthma is one of the leading causes of chronic illness in children, and unmanaged asthma can have serious consequences. Familiarise yourself with the condition here.


Causes of asthma


The exact cause of asthma is still not fully understood, but genetics and an overly sensitive immune system play a role. Asthma is related to other allergic conditions like skin and food allergies. The risk of asthma also increases with obesity. Regardless of the underlying cause and risk factors, asthma results in inflamed and narrowed airways, making normal breathing more difficult.


Asthma triggers


Multiple triggers may cause asthma or an asthma attack, including exposure to cold air, tobacco smoke, pollution, dust mites, pet dander and pollen. In some children, physical activity may trigger asthmatic symptoms. Symptoms of asthma are often exacerbated by respiratory infections like a cold or the flu.


Signs and symptoms of asthma


Asthma signs and symptoms vary widely between individuals, depending on the severity of the condition. Frequent coughing, a tight chest and wheezing are the classical signs, and may be complicated by shortness of breath and difficulty sleeping due to respiratory symptoms. Signs of a severe asthma attack which warrant emergency medical attention include severe shortness of breath, with use of abdominal muscles to breathe and flaring of the nostrils in an attempt to get more air into the lungs.


Management of asthma


Unfortunately, asthma cannot be cured, but it can be controlled. Those with mild asthma are often given an asthma pump that they use only when they feel symptoms like a tight chest coming on. Other individuals with more frequent attacks are managed with daily inhaled medications. Severe cases may require oral medication. Importantly, triggers should be identified and removed as far as possible.


The information in this article is intended for general purposes only. If you have any concerns about your health or the health of your child, you should always consult with a healthcare professional.