Is your child short of breath? Cough a lot, especially at night? Lack energy? He or she may have asthma. Asthma is the most common chronic condition in children. One out of 10 American children suffers from asthma. And while some think asthma is only wheezing, there are other symptoms – especially in children. Here are four things you need to know.
There’s more to asthma than wheezing
Wheezing is the hallmark of asthma, but your child could have asthma even without this symptom. A persistent dry cough can signal a type of asthma called cough-variant asthma. If your child’s cough is worse when she lies down or when she’s active, her doctor may want to perform a test with a spirometer. This instrument is used to measure the volume of air in the lungs. It will determine the amount of air your child can forcefully exhale while her doctor listens for wheezing.
Environmental factors can trigger asthma
Experts aren't sure why more children have this inflammatory lung disease than in the past, but some think rising levels of air pollutants – such as allergens and second-hand smoke – play a role. If you live in an area congested with traffic or your young child is exposed to high levels of ozone, he or she might have a higher risk of developing asthma, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, 70 percent of people with asthma also have allergies. Surprisingly, however, studies have found that children who grow up with pets have a lower asthma risk. It could be that exposure to the germs animals carry makes the immune system better able to prevent allergies from flaring up.
There’s a link between eczema and asthma
Children who have eczema have a higher likelihood of developing allergies and asthma. Known as the “allergy march,” children with eczema can go on to develop food and/or airborne allergies – and later, asthma. Immunotherapy, or allergy shots, can help treat allergies and lessen your child’s risk of developing asthma. If your child has eczema and you suspect allergies or asthma, see your Providence pediatrician for an evaluation.
Childhood asthma doesn’t mean limiting activity
Asthma is a serious condition of the lungs and it can be fatal. However, there are therapies to treat asthma and keep it in check. If your child has asthma, the best way to control it isn’t to limit activities, but to use the proper medications. Your child’s doctor can create an “asthma action plan” to help. Doctors warn that even if your child’s asthma is mild, a severe asthma attack can still occur, so be sure to treat asthma with the proper medications.
Talk to your Providence primary care provider to see which asthma treatments are best for your child.
Don’t have a primary care provider? Use our online tools to find a clinic or provider in your neighborhood.