Asthma is one of the most common childhood illnesses. As many as 5 million children in the U.S. suffer from this chronic condition that affects the lungs and airways.
Though asthma has affected children for generations, studies show that the condition is on the rise as more young people spend increasing amounts of time indoors, where asthma-triggering elements lurk.
Asthma attacks are caused by irritantsin the environment that trigger an inflammatory process characterized by swollen wind pipes, over production of mucus and bronchial spasms of the muscles in the airways.
Common Asthma Symptoms
- Overproduction of phlegm
- Breathing difficulties
- Chest tightness
Awareness is the best defense
Family awareness of asthma and what triggers it can be the best defense against this chronic disorder. Begin by approaching your child’s physician to determine factors that trigger your child’s attacks. Once triggers are identified, helping the child avoid those irritants is key.
Common asthma triggers
A variety of factors can trigger your child’s asthma attacks. Use the following guide to help your child identify and avoid his or her triggers.
- Exercise: Running or playing can cause asthma flare-ups. Exercise is among themost widely recognized asthma aggravators.
- Strong odors: Some children with asthmaare especially sensitive to hard or overpoweringscents, including air pollutants,strong perfumes, smoke (cigarette orwood) and harsh chemicals, potpourri,incense, etc.
- Weather: Both seasonal changes and coldweather can irritate the airways and make your child more susceptible to attacks.
- Common illnesses: Many types of virusesand bacteria, such as the common cold and flu, can aggravate your child’s asthma. Viral infections are the most common asthma triggers.
- Allergies: Reactions to allergens in the environment, such as pets, dust, pollen and mold, can send your child into an asthma attack, so parents should monitor their child’s exposure.
Managing for better health
Some children with asthma may be prescribed medication to help them overcome attacks. Depending on the severity of the condition, some may need to take a regular prescription to control the condition, and some may need relief medication taken to reduce suffering during an attack.
When properly managed, asthma does not have to control your child’s life. Infact, many of today’s athletes have a history of asthma. Take control, and you and your child can enjoy active lives.
Dr. Maria Franco is the medical director at the Asthma Center at Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital, 3100 SW 62nd Ave., Miami. For more information, call 305-669-5864.