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Asthma in Children

AMBULATORY CARE:

Asthma

is a condition that causes breathing problems. Inflammation and narrowing of your child's airway prevents air from getting to his or her lungs. An asthma attack is when your child's symptoms get worse. If your child's asthma is not managed, symptoms may become chronic or life-threatening.

Normal vs Asthmatic Bronchioles

Cough-variant asthma

is a type of asthma with symptoms of a dry cough that comes and goes. A dry cough may be your child's only symptom, or he or she may also have chest tightness. Your child's cough may be worse at night. These symptoms may be caused by exercise or exposure to odors, allergens, or respiratory infections. Cough-variant asthma is treated the same way as typical asthma.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fast breathing in infants
  • Chest tightness

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • Your child has severe shortness of breath.
  • The skin around your child's neck and ribs pulls in with each breath.
  • Your child's peak flow numbers are in the red zone of his or her AAP.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child has shortness of breath, even after he or she takes short-term medicine as directed.
  • Your child's lips or nails turn blue or gray.

Call your child's doctor or asthma specialist if:

  • You run out of medicine before your child's next refill is due.
  • Your child's symptoms get worse.
  • Your child needs to take more medicine than usual to control his or her symptoms.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Treatment for asthma

will depend on your child's age and how severe his or her asthma is. Medicine may be used to decrease inflammation, open airways, and make it easier to breathe. Medicines may be inhaled, taken as a pill, or injected. Short-term medicines relieve your child's symptoms quickly. Long-term medicines are used to prevent future attacks. Other medicines may be needed if your child's regular medicines are not able to prevent attacks. Your child may also need medicine to help control your allergies.

Follow your child's Asthma Action Plan (AAP):

An AAP is a written plan to help you manage your child's asthma. It is created with your child's pediatrician. Give the AAP to all of your child's care providers. This includes your child's teachers and school nurse. An AAP contains the following information:

  • A list of what triggers your child's asthma
  • How to keep your child away from triggers
  • When and how to use a peak flow meter
  • What your child's peak numbers are for the Green, Yellow, and Red Zones
  • Symptoms to watch for and how to treat them
  • Names and doses of medicines, and when to use each medicine
  • Emergency telephone numbers and locations of emergency care
  • Instructions for when to call the doctor and when to seek immediate care

Manage your child's asthma:

  • Keep a diary of your child's asthma symptoms. This will help identify asthma triggers so you can keep your child away from them.
  • Do not smoke near your child. Do not smoke in your car or anywhere in your home. Do not let your older child smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can make your child's asthma worse. Ask your child's pediatrician for information if you or your child currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your child's pediatrician before you or your child use these products.
  • Manage your child's other health conditions. This includes allergies and acid reflux. These conditions can make your child's symptoms worse.
  • Ask about vaccines your child may need. Vaccines can help prevent infections that could worsen your child's symptoms. Your child may need a yearly flu vaccine.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Your child will need to return to make sure the medicine is working and that his or her symptoms are being controlled. Your child may be referred to an asthma specialist. Bring a diary of your child's peak flow numbers, symptoms, and possible triggers to the follow-up appointments. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your child's visit.

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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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.