Ask Your Doctor: CHILDHOOD ASTHMA

anguillian
By anguillian February 15, 2016 10:44 Updated

 

 

Asthma in children is a major cause of emergency visits and hospitizations at the Princess Alexandra Hospital here in Anguilla, and a common cause of missed school days. Many cases of childhood asthma cannot be cured, but symptoms can be kept under control with good management. Some individuals do not understand childhood asthma and wait too long before seeking medical attention. This can have disastrous effects and can result in sudden death.

How common is childhood asthma?
Childhood asthma is a very common disorder in Anguilla and many other countries. No one really knows the exact reasons why more and more children are developing asthma, but lifestyle changes might play a role. Asthma can begin at any age but most children have their first symptoms by age 5.
What are some symptoms of childhood asthma?
The signs and symptoms of asthma might vary from one child to another, and may get worse or better over time. While wheezing is most commonly associated with asthma, not all children with asthma wheeze. Every child that wheezes does not have asthma. Your child may have only one sign or symptom, such as a lingering cough or chest congestion.

Some common symptoms of childhood asthma include the following:
• Frequent, and intermittent coughing
• Shortness of breath
• Chest congestion or tightness
• Chest pain, particularly in younger children
• Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing
• Trouble breathing that may limit play or exercise
• Fatigue, which can be caused by poor sleep
The first signs of asthma in young children may be recurrent wheezing triggered by a respiratory virus. As children grow older, asthma associated with respiratory allergies is more common.
It may be difficult to tell whether your child’s symptoms are caused by asthma or something else. When in doubt see a qualified doctor.

Why does your child get asthma?
We are not sure what actually causes asthma but we know that developing an overly sensitive immune system generally plays a role. Asthma is believed to be caused by inflammation of the small tubes, called bronchi, which carry air in and out of the lungs. If you have asthma, the bronchi will be inflamed and more sensitive than normal.

Some factors thought to be involved in asthma include:
• Inherited traits
• Some types of airway infections at a very young age
• Exposure to environmental factors such as cigarette smoke or other air pollution
Increased immune system sensitivity causes the lungs and airways to swell and produce mucus when exposed to certain triggers. Reaction to a trigger may be delayed, making it more difficult to identify the trigger. These triggers vary from child to child and can include:
• Viral infections such as the common cold
• Exposure to air pollutants such as tobacco smoke
• Allergies to dust mites, pet dander, pollen or mold
• Physical activity
• Weather changes or cold air
Sometimes asthma symptoms occur with no apparent triggers.

Treatment
Treating childhood asthma can be frustrating for the child, parent and physician. The goal of asthma treatment is to keep symptoms under control all of the time. Well-controlled asthma means that your child has:
• Minimal or no symptoms
• Few or no asthma flare-ups
• Very few days off from school
• No limitations on physical activities or exercise
• Minimal use of quick-relief (rescue) inhalers, such as ventolin

Treating asthma involves both preventing symptoms and treating an asthma attack in progress. Preventive, long-term control medications reduce the inflammation in your child’s airways that leads to symptoms. Quick-relief medications quickly open swollen airways that are limiting breathing. Most children with persistent asthma use a combination of long-term control medications and quick-relief medications taken with a hand-held inhaler.
In some cases, medications to treat allergies also are needed. The right medication for your child depends on a number of things, including his or her age, symptoms, asthma triggers and what seems to work best to keep his or her asthma under control.
Often, your doctor might need to work with parents, school nurses, teachers and others in order to successfully control asthma symptoms in children.

Conclusion
Childhood asthma is a long-term (chronic) inflammation of the small breathing tubes (bronchioles) in your child’s lungs. Your doctor will only make a firm diagnosis of asthma when he/she sees a pattern of symptoms emerging over a period of time. It may be difficult to know whether or not your baby has asthma, so your doctor may treat her with asthma medications for a short time. If the symptoms continue, the chances are that your baby has asthma. If you suspect that your child has asthma, have a talk with your doctor and seek medical attention.

Ask Your Doctor is a health education column and is not a substitute for medical advice from your physician. The reader should consult his or her physician for specific information concerning specific medical conditions. While all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that all information presented is accurate, as research and development in the medical field are ongoing, it is possible that new findings may supersede some data presented.

Dr Brett Hodge MB BS DGO MRCOG, is an Obstetrician/Gynaecologist and Family Doctor who has over thirty-two years in clinical practice. Dr Hodge has a medical practice in The Johnson Building in The Valley (Tel: 264 4975828).

anguillian
By anguillian February 15, 2016 10:44 Updated

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