Childhood Asthma

A lot of children get asthma. Most children grow out of it after they are teenagers. Children under 4 years old hardly ever get asthma. These are all symptoms of asthma:

  • Wheezing
  • Tight feeling in the chest
  • Chronic coughing
  • Trouble breathing

Asthma symptoms come and go. An asthma “attack” can be big or small. Asthma can get worse when your child is upset or worried. But it’s not “in his or her head.” It’s a real physical problem. A doctor should treat your child if he or she has asthma. Asthma runs in families. Children who have hay fever or eczema often have asthma, too.

Asthma cuts down the air flow in the lungs. This makes it hard to breathe and can cause wheezing. (Note: Other things can cause wheezing, too. Something may be stuck in the throat, or there may be an infection. Always tell the doctor if your child is wheezing.

These things can help cause asthma attacks:

  • Bronchitis or an infection in the throat and lungs
  • Colds
  • Breathing pollen from plants, mold, animal dander, dust, or smoke
  • Eating some foods
  • Taking some medicines
  • Breathing cold air
  • Exercising too hard
  • Getting upset, angry, or “stressed out”

The right asthma treatment depends on how bad the attacks are. It’s hard to treat asthma with medicines you buy without a prescription. Your child’s doctor should keep track of how your child is doing. The doctor may prescribe one or more of these for your child’s asthma:

  • Bronchodilators – Bronchodilators open up the airways in the body. They come either as a spray or as something you swallow.
  • Steroids – Steroids help when you have allergies. An allergic reaction can bring on an asthma attack. Steroids work against the allergic reaction. They come either as a spray, or as pills you swallow.
  • Cromolyn sodium – Your child can inhale Cromolyn sodium before an attack that is triggered by allergies or exercise. This medicine won’t work once the attack starts.
  • Cromolyn sodium and steroids – They can work together to prevent attacks.
  • Antibiotics – Your doctor will only give these to your child if the child has an infection.

Questions to Ask

Does your child have any of these problems?

  • Blue color around the lips
  • Has to sit up to breathe
  • Can?t talk or make normal sounds
  • Has very noisy, grunting sounds with breathing
Yes: Seek Care
Is your child wheezing a lot? Does your child?s chest feel tight? Is it hard for your child to breathe? Yes:See Doctor
Does your child have a fever? Is your child coughing up anything green, yellow, or bloody?Yes:See Doctor
Does your child?s asthma attack stay just as bad, no matter what you do for it?Yes:See Doctor
Are your child?s asthma attacks coming more often or getting worse?Yes:Call Doctor
Has your child?s cough lasted more than 2 weeks?Yes:Call Doctor

Self Care Tips

Try these tips to help your child avoid asthma attacks:

  • Have him or her drink a lot of water, juice, or soft drinks. (Ask your child’s doctor how much fluid your child should have each day.)
  • Find out what triggers your child?s asthma, and get rid of things that bother your child at home, at school, and where they play.
  • Keep things your child is allergic to out of his or her bedroom.
  • Give your child a foam or cotton pillow, not a feather pillow.
  • Cover your child’s mattress and pillow with a plastic cover. Wash mattress pads in hot water every week.
  • Don?t hang sheets and blankets outside to dry. Pollen can get on them.
  • Put throw rugs in your home instead of carpets. Pollen, pet dander, mold, and dust mites collect in carpets. Use blinds instead of drapes on your windows.
  • Vacuum often. But put a filter mask on your child first. (When you vacuum, the dust that comes up can give your child an asthma attack.)
  • Mix 3/4 cup bleach in a gallon of water to mop bathroom tiles and floors, the kitchen, and other rooms. Then air out each room. This helps keep mold from growing.
  • Put an air filter in your central heat or air-conditioning. Or use portable air cleaners to keep the air clean.
  • Change or wash filters often. Keep the humidifier filter clean, if you use one. Use distilled water, not tap water, in humidifiers and vaporizers.
  • Have your child wear a scarf around his or her mouth and nose when they are outside in cold weather. The scarf warms the air before your child breathes it in.
  • It’s good for your child to do sports like swimming. But tell them to stop exercising if they start to wheeze.
  • Don’t let your child eat foods or medicines that have sulfites. Shellfish for example often have sulfites. They bother many people with asthma.
  • Have your child sit up during an asthma attack. Don’t let them lie down.
  • Don’t run out of your child?s 12 asthma medicine. Keep the medicine handy. Have them take it as soon as they start to feel an attack.
  • Don’t give your child aspirin! Some people with asthma are allergic to aspirin. Try acetami-nophen instead.

(Note: Do not give aspirin to anyone under 19 years old unless a doctor tells you to. Aspirin and other medicines that have salicylates have been linked to Reye’s Syndrome, a condition that can kill.)

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Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

Explore Wellness in 2021