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What is Pediatric Asthma?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Pediatric asthma or childhood asthma refers to a condition that affects breathing by narrowing the airways periodically, and occurs first in childhood. It is possible for some people to outgrow this illness, but other people will always have asthma if they first began to experience it in childhood. This is undoubtedly a serious disease, and one that is common; about five to nine million children in the US alone suffer from this condition. Though serious, asthma is definitely manageable when appropriate care is given.

There can be many different symptoms of pediatric asthma, and they don’t always add up to a huge asthma attack occurring, though this is always likely in the asthmatic child. Parents should pay attention to a child’s breathing and look for some signs that could suggest the condition. These include wheezing or whistling breath, that may be most noted when kids exhale, but is sometimes heard on inhalation. A child with a chronic cough for which no explanation can be found may have pediatric asthma. Some children seem to always be short of breath, and their stomach muscles may make more effort to draw in or release breath, called stridor.

An asthma inhaler.
An asthma inhaler.

No single cause of pediatric asthma has been identified. Instead, a number of things could create it or trigger symptoms to appear. Allergies are very often identified as a potential causal factor, and these include indoor allergies to dust/dust mites, mold, second hand smoke, cockroach infestation, and household pets, and outdoor allergies to things like pollen. Sometimes allergies aren’t a factor and some children may get asthma from exercising, called exercised induced asthma, or in cold air conditions. Another potential trigger is respiratory viruses or infections, which could result in asthma.

Cockroaches are known to cause allergies in children, and may lead to the development of asthma.
Cockroaches are known to cause allergies in children, and may lead to the development of asthma.

It is possible that the first sign of asthma will be a severe asthma attack. The features of this could include a child being unable to breathe, move around freely or talk from straining to breathe. This struggle, which could be accompanied by symptoms of grayish or blue colored fingernail beds is an emergency. A child needs immediate medical care under these circumstances. Any time this circumstance occurs, emergency services should be called, even if the child is on medications for pediatric asthma.

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

Hopefully, parents see signs of pediatric asthma earlier, and are able to get their children to the doctor to begin treatment. The doctor analyzes patient history and may be able to identify what is causing the condition, though not always. Treatment might address any underlying causes like allergies and at the same time work on minimizing allergy attacks through the use of various medications that can shrink or dilate the airways. Some of these are inhaled, and it may take a little training for a young child especially to learn how to use an inhaler. If this is too difficult, other options include delivering medication via facemask attached to a nebulizer or orally.

Up to nine million children in the US suffer from pediatric asthma.
Up to nine million children in the US suffer from pediatric asthma.

With treatment, many children improve dramatically, but when pediatric asthma is not improving, parents should definitely talk to their child’s doctor. Sometimes more than one medication is needed, or a different medication proves more effective. Parents should also plan to work with their doctor to derive an asthma action plan for home and for the child’s other environments like school. This is a series of steps/observations, which can help people determine if the asthmatic condition is too severe for home/school treatment and requires emergency help.

Some asthma treatments are inhaled and might require the help of an adult.
Some asthma treatments are inhaled and might require the help of an adult.

When pediatric asthma is properly managed, children may have few limitations on activity. They may have to learn to be a little more in tune with their breathing so they become their own advocates if they need assistance. With appropriate and skillful medical management, however, many children are able to play, exercise, and pursue most activities without restrictions.

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.
    • Cockroaches are known to cause allergies in children, and may lead to the development of asthma.
      By: R_R
      Cockroaches are known to cause allergies in children, and may lead to the development of asthma.
    • An illustration of the pathology of asthma.
      By: Alila
      An illustration of the pathology of asthma.
    • Up to nine million children in the US suffer from pediatric asthma.
      By: JPC-PROD
      Up to nine million children in the US suffer from pediatric asthma.
    • Some asthma treatments are inhaled and might require the help of an adult.
      By: Ilike
      Some asthma treatments are inhaled and might require the help of an adult.
    • It may be easier for small children to use a nebulizer mask rather than an inhaler.
      By: chamillew
      It may be easier for small children to use a nebulizer mask rather than an inhaler.
    • No single cause of pediatric asthma has been identified.
      By: Photographee.eu
      No single cause of pediatric asthma has been identified.
    • 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.
    • Pediatric asthma has been shown to be more common in children with parents who smoke.
      By: Discovod
      Pediatric asthma has been shown to be more common in children with parents who smoke.
    • In some children, the first sign of asthma may be a severe asthma attack.
      By: Lisa Eastman
      In some children, the first sign of asthma may be a severe asthma attack.