- The author of the article is Dr. Indu Khosla, Sr Consultant, SRCC Children’s Hospital (Mumbai)
Asthma is a condition that makes the muscles around the airways tighten, causing the lining to get inflamed, subsequently, mucus builds up making it hard to breathe. It may run in the family too. It isn’t clear why some people get asthma and others don’t, but it’s probably due to a combination of environmental and inherited (genetic) factors.
Asthma symptoms vary from person to person. You may have infrequent asthma attacks, have symptoms only at certain times — such as when exercising — or have symptoms all the time. The most common symptoms of Asthma include wheezing, noisy breathing, coughing, difficulty in breathing, etc. These symptoms which can range from mild to severe can occur at any time and for any duration of time. Asthma can’t be cured, but its symptoms can be controlled.
Cigarette smoke, stress, viral infections causing cold, strong perfumes or odors, air pollution, exercise, very cold and dry air as seen in the winter season are some of the common asthma triggers. Other than this, dust mites, molds, dogs or cats, pollen, or cockroach droppings may also be considered asthma triggers. Your doctor might do allergy tests which are blood or skin tests to see if you have allergic triggers.
Asthma can be diagnosed by a test called spirometry that can be done in children above the age of 6 years to see the function of the lungs. Other than this, it can also be diagnosed by examining the patient and asking questions on the child’s symptoms.
Because asthma often changes over time, it’s important that you work with your doctor to track your signs and symptoms and adjust your treatment as needed. For the treatment of asthma, inhalers are the most effective, safe, and quick-acting with minimal side effects. Unlike popular belief, they are not strong or addicting.
Other than inhalers, some “Quick relief” medicines are used when the child has symptoms of cough or breathlessness to provide instant relief to the Symptoms. Most children tolerate these medicines well. If the child has frequent symptoms or several severe episodes in a year then “Long-term controller medicines” need to be taken daily. If symptoms are severe then a doctor’s visit is compulsory. Severe asthma attacks can be life-threatening. Work with your doctor to determine what to do when your signs and symptoms worsen — and when you need emergency treatment.
Almost all children with asthma use an inhaler with a device called a “spacer.” Some children need a machine called a “nebulizer” which is required if your child is breathless. A doctor or nurse will show you the right way to use these in a hospital setting.
If your child’s asthma is not treated with the right medication, it can have a negative impact on the child’s daily activities such as playing sports or going to school. It can also damage the lungs.
See a doctor if your child has an asthma attack and the symptoms do not improve or get worse after using a quick-relief medicine.
Asthma can be prevented by giving the child daily controller medicines and avoiding triggers. Quite often, asthma gets better with age, but in some cases, people may suffer from asthma even after they grow up.