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Asthma In Children

What is asthma in children?

Asthma is a disease of the lungs that makes breathing difficult for your child. Chronic inflammation and intense reactions to triggers make the lung airways become smaller. Allergies, lung infections as a baby, or a family history of asthma can increase your child's risk of asthma. If your child's asthma is not managed, his symptoms may become chronic or life-threatening.


What are the signs and symptoms of asthma in children?

  • Coughing

  • Wheezing

  • Shortness of breath

  • Chest tightness

What may trigger an asthma attack?

  • Sinus infection, a cold, or the flu

  • Exercise

  • Intense crying, laughing, or yelling

  • Cold air, or a change in weather temperature

  • Indoor air pollutants that come from flooring, furniture, or paint

  • Tobacco smoke

  • Pets, dust mites, cockroaches, mold, or pollen

How is asthma diagnosed in children?

Your caregiver may ask if your child has a family history of asthma, or if he has known triggers. Tell him if your child has any health conditions or takes medicine. Tell him about your child's symptoms. For example, your child may wake up often at night. He may not be able to do his normal activities because of shortness of breath. Your child may need to be tested for other allergies that could trigger his asthma attacks. He may also need the following tests:

  • Lung function tests measure airflow in your child's lungs and show how well he can breathe.

  • A chest x-ray checks for other lung problems.

How is asthma in children treated?

  • Medicines decrease inflammation, open airways, and make breathing easier. Your child may need medicine that works quickly during an attack, or that works over time to prevent attacks. Asthma medicine may be inhaled, taken as a pill, or injected. Make sure your child knows how to use an inhaler. Follow up with your child's caregiver to make sure your child continues to use the inhaler correctly.

  • Allergy testing may reveal allergies that trigger an asthma attack. Your child may need allergy shots or medicine to control allergies that make his asthma worse.

How do I manage my child's asthma?

  • Follow the Asthma Action Plan (AAP) that your child received from his caregiver. The AAP explains which medicines your child needs and when to change doses if necessary. It also explains how you and your child can monitor symptoms and use a peak flow meter. The meter measures how well air moves in and out of your child's lungs.

  • Give the AAP to your child's care providers. The AAP gives directions for what to do in case of an asthma attack.

  • Identify and avoid known triggers. Keep your home free of pets, dust mites, and mold.

  • Explain the dangers of smoking to your child. Tobacco smoke increases your child's risk for asthma attacks. Keep him away from secondhand smoke.

  • Manage your child's other health conditions , such as allergies, obesity, and acid reflux.

  • Ask about vaccines. Your child may need a yearly flu shot. The flu can make your child's asthma worse.

When should I contact my child's caregiver?

  • Your child runs out of medicine before his next scheduled refill.

  • Your child needs more medicine than usual to control his symptoms.

  • Your child struggles to do his usual activities because of his symptoms.

  • Your child's symptoms get worse, or he wakes up at night more often than usual.

  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • Your child's peak flow numbers are lower than he was told they should be (in his AAP Red Zone).

  • Your child has trouble talking or walking because of shortness of breath.

  • Your child's shortness of breath is so severe that he cannot sleep or do his usual activities.

  • Your child's shortness of breath is the same or worse even after he takes medicine.

  • Your child's lips or nails are blue or gray.

  • The skin of your child's neck and ribcage pull in with each breath.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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