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What is Childhood Asthma?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Childhood asthma is a very common condition and unfortunately research has shown an increase in its prevalence in the last few decades. This chronic illness is merely asthma (swelling and constricting of the airways with presentation of greater mucus) that affects children, and it may be caused by a number of things. Proper treatment and managements of childhood asthma is important to keep life for the afflicted child as normal as possible and to keep the disease from progressing to dangerous attacks.

There are many potential causes of childhood asthma. Sometimes the condition stems from chronic allergies, and symptoms might be reduced through treatment of them. Other times asthma results when children have gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD). In other instances, children simply are triggered by a number of environmental factors, which could include allergens, viruses, or infections. It can be the case that no cause is found, except that the condition is known to exist more often in areas where high air pollution exists. One clear increased risk for childhood asthma is exposure to second hand smoke, and parents should be certain not to allow smoking in their home, and should weigh decisions about whether to take children into environments where they will be exposed to high levels of second hand smoke.

An asthma inhaler.
An asthma inhaler.

Parents are obviously very concerned about childhood asthma and want to know what to look for that might suggest it. Some symptoms include obvious physical difficulty breathing, or breathing with the whole body, where the stomach pulls in to bring the breath in or when the nostrils flare as breathing occurs. Coughing all of the time may be a sign of this condition too, as can wheezing, which might be heard during physical activity, play, laughing, or simply at night when breathing. Kids with this condition may seem to never recover from colds or especially any type of cough, or they appear to get a succession of cases of bronchitis or pneumonia. Some children seem short of breath at all times or after brief play, or they may get tired quickly by brief periods of play.

An illustration of the pathology of asthma.
An illustration of the pathology of asthma.

These symptoms, whether a child has just one or two or more, do warrant seeing a doctor right away to rule in or rule out a possible diagnosis of child asthma. Parents can expect doctors to ask question about some of the behaviors listed above. Those with children who are six years old or above, will likely have their children undergo what is called spirometry, which can measure how well the lungs are working. It’s harder to do this test on younger children. Doctors may have to diagnose with other testing or by prescribing asthma medications, and diagnosing the condition if these seem to work.

Asthma causes the bronchi, which lead from the trachea to the lung, to become inflamed.
Asthma causes the bronchi, which lead from the trachea to the lung, to become inflamed.

Most common treatments for kids with childhood asthma include using a variety of medications that help to ease breathing and also that prevent the airway from inflaming. Medications given can be variable depending on the patient. Many are taken by way of an inhaler, and there may be more than one medication in an inhaler. For children with very severe forms of asthma, sometimes injectable medication like epinephrine is kept on hand to quickly bring a life-threatening attack to a halt.

Inhalers are a common form of treatment for childhood asthma.
Inhalers are a common form of treatment for childhood asthma.

One of the things most recommended for parents is to create an action plan, a series of steps to be followed when an asthma attack occurs. As children enter school, this plan should be shared with anyone who will be a caregiver. Doctors are excellent resources for helping to derive such a plan and should be considered an integral part of this process.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent WiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Learn more...
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent WiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Learn more...

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    • An asthma inhaler.
      By: alctxphoto
      An asthma inhaler.
    • An illustration of the pathology of asthma.
      By: Alila
      An illustration of the pathology of asthma.
    • Asthma causes the bronchi, which lead from the trachea to the lung, to become inflamed.
      By: arsdigital
      Asthma causes the bronchi, which lead from the trachea to the lung, to become inflamed.
    • Inhalers are a common form of treatment for childhood asthma.
      By: Ilike
      Inhalers are a common form of treatment for childhood asthma.
    • Chronic allergies may cause childhood asthma.
      By: Photographee.eu
      Chronic allergies may cause childhood asthma.
    • It is not uncommon for asthma sufferers to also fall victim to certain allergies.
      By: robyelo357
      It is not uncommon for asthma sufferers to also fall victim to certain allergies.
    • Children with chronic asthma may receive breathing treatments.
      By: bnmk0819
      Children with chronic asthma may receive breathing treatments.