Asthma is a common childhood condition; over a million children suffer from it in the UK alone. Essentially what asthma means is that the bronchi, the tubes within the lungs, are sensitive to certain triggers. Triggers may include dust, animal hair, pollen, certain types of weather, exercise and even some medications. Each case is different;
While one child may be very sensitive to many of the triggers, another may only have an asthmatic reaction to one specific trigger. The lining of the bronchi becomes inflamed. The result is coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing.
An asthma attack is when the sufferer finds it particularly difficult to breathe. They may or may not wheeze noisily, but care should be taken if for any reason you suspect an asthma attack is taking place as a severe attack can be life-threatening.
Is my baby at risk?
If you suspect your baby may be suffering from asthma or you want to be aware of the signs because you have been told your child may be at a higher risk of developing it (due to family history for example), then it helps to know what to look out for. Your child may be more likely to suffer from asthma if there is a family history of the illness. They are also more prone to asthma if they were premature, had a low birth weight (less than 4.5lb) or have other allergies. Environment can have an effect as well; a child who is exposed to tobacco smoke or whose mother smoked while pregnant is more likely to suffer from asthma.
Signs of Asthma
Any coughing, wheezing or recurring chest problems should be investigated thoroughly by a doctor who will be able to diagnose asthma based on the symptoms the child has; there is no test for asthma. However, if you ever feel that your child is having difficulty breathing, then see a doctor right away, even if it means calling the out-of-hours service, taking then child to an accident and emergency department or calling an ambulance.
Living with Asthma
Asthma is a condition that has to be carefully managed. With good organisation and care you can help your child avoid the triggers that affect their condition and deal with any symptoms when they arise. Medication is commonly given in the form of inhalers which can be used with spacers to make them easier and more effective for young children. The essential part of the child’s treatment will be the development of a personalized plan that outlines their care so that you feel in control of the condition and know how to deal with it.
Many people who have suffered from childhood asthma are symptom free as adults. A child with asthma may grow out of the condition entirely or they may find that the illness becomes much milder as they grow up. Your doctor will be able to advise you on your child’s progress as they grow and together you can monitor the asthma as part of the child’s care plan.
As with so many childhood conditions, the key is to understand the illness and have procedures in place to deal with it; that way your child can get on with being a child with the minimum of disruption or difficulty. Teaching your child from an early age that managing the asthma means that is will be less limiting can help them get on with life and not let asthma hold them back.