Care4Kids

Asthma

Asthma is a chronic (long-term) condition of the airways in the lungs. It is not contagious, but it does tend to run in families. Asthma is the most common chronic childhood illness in the United States. It affects approximately 7 million children and is the number one cause of school absenteeism. However, with effective preventive medication and self-care techniques such as a written asthma action plan, asthma symptoms can be controlled to let children with asthma lead normal lives. Health care professionals can work together with children and their families to develop an appropriate treatment plan so kids can stay healthy and active.

SYMPTOMS OF ASTHMA

During an asthma flare-up, there are changes in the airway including tightness in the surrounding muscles; inflammation; swelling; and the production of extra mucus that can make it hard for air to flow in and out of the lungs and difficult for a person to breathe. Most children have warning signs that occur hours and even days before an asthma flare-up. Ask your health care provider what to do when these early signs occur. Warning signs include:

WHAT TRIGGERS A FLARE-UP?

Things that cause an asthma flare-up are called triggers. You can help prevent flare-ups by avoiding the following common triggers:

Respiratory infections

General irritants

Allergens

Children with asthma also may have these common
allergies:

Strenuous exercise

Other

Environmental Control of Triggers

If your daughter experiences coughing or wheezing when exercising, discuss this with your physician. With proper asthma treatment, she will be able to continue to benefit from exercise.

TREATMENT USING AN ASTHMA ACTION PLAN

Every child’s treatment plan will differ because asthma varies from one person to another. A personalized, written Asthma Action Plan helps parents learn how to manage asthma at home in order to avoid trips to the emergency room or hospitalizations. Your Asthma Action Plan can help you decide: what medicines to take, when to take them, how to take them and when and how to get help. The green, yellow and red zones in action plans tell patients, families, schools and babysitters what to do when asthma is doing well, but also what steps to follow if asthma flares up.

Medicines can be taken by mouth, directly into the lungs with a nebulizer (breathing machine), or an inhaler (puffer) always used with a spacer/valved holding chamber.

The two main types of asthma medications are:

Controller — Preventive Medicines

Quick-Reliever — Rescue Medicines

When using asthma medicines remember to:

WHEN TO CALL THE DOCTOR

Call your provider immediately if your child has any of the following signs of breathing difficulty:

Call 9-1-1 if your child has severe breathing difficulty.

MANAGING ASTHMA

Ask your child’s provider for a written Asthma Action Plan. If your daughter experiences coughing or wheezing when exercising, discuss this with your physician. With proper asthma treatment, she will be able to continue to benefit from exercise.

This type of plan spells out the exact steps to take to manage asthma at home or school. Meet with your son’s teacher, school nurse or childcare provider and share the plan with them.

Follow-up appointments with your child’s doctor are crucial and the only way to determine if the treatment is working or if changes need to be made.

Should your daughter experience a flare-up, remain calm and reassuring. Have her sit down and try to rest. Learn breathing and relaxation exercises and teach them to her so you both can remain calm during flare-ups.

Akron Children’s Hospital offers regularly scheduled Asthma Education Classes for families and children taught by certified asthma educators. Akron Children’s Hospital also offers Camp Wonderlung, an annual summer camp experience for children with asthma. For more information on either of these programs, call the Asthma Education Office at 330-543-8585, or toll free, 1-800-358-KIDS. You also can search Asthma Links when visiting the Online Asthma Centers on Akron Children’s Hospital’s Web site at www.akronchildrens.org. Contact the Family Resource Center at 330-543-8180 for consumer health information on childhood asthma.

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