Asthma is a long term condition affecting the airways of the lungs, causing difficulty breathing and this is commonly seen among children. Now the mechanism of asthma is such, our airways are tubes surrounded by muscle and they have an inner lining. Now, upon exposure to an asthma trigger, the muscles contract and tighten thereby narrowing the airway tube. The inner lining then get swollen, secondary to the irritation and also pouring out of mucus into the tube, which further compromises this narrowed airway. The result of such narrowing leads to difficulty with breathing and all the symptoms that we would see in asthma.
In most cases, the cause for asthma is not well understood. However, there is a strong genetic predisposition as most of the parents have a strong family history of allergies, eczema or asthma. Environmental exposure to irritants in such patients triggers off an asthma attack. Different triggers affect different children and each child may be affected by one or more factors.
Now among your triggers, you have allergic triggers and non-allergic triggers. Your allergic triggers include – dust, pests like dust mite, rodents, cockroaches, molds, pollen, the tree and flower pollen, grass and weeds, pets where in the animal fur dander can act as an allergen and strong odour like perfumes, air fresheners, cleaning products act as triggers. Now, your non-allergic triggers include respiratory infections like cold and flu, cigarette’s smoke, pollution, change in weather, exercise, emotional factors like laughing out loud, crying, anger, anxiety and certain medications like non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medications.
The symptoms of asthma include prolonged cough that is worsened by colds or upon activity, night time cough leading to disturbed sleep, shortness of breath maybe associated with fast breathing and muscles retractions which are evident under the ribs. Wheezing is the most common symptom, which is a whistling sound mostly on breathing out. There can be a feeling of tightness in the chest, which is described by kids as pain or a funny feeling in the chest.
When to see a doctor?
Now, when do you need to see your doctor? Should any of the symptoms as described earlier happened to your child, see your doctor who will give appropriate treatment and if need be might refer you to a pediatric pulmonologist for further investigations and control medications. Now prior to the visit to your doctor, pay attention to the story of the cough like what time of the day is it worse, which season brings on the worst cough and if there is any possible food or environmental exposure that’s triggering off the cough. If your child is having an abrupt onset of severe cough and wheeze, a breathlessness, is breathing fast with retractions, is unable to speak in complete sentences, the child appears sleepy or lethargic with either paleness or a bluish discoloration of the lips, you have to definitely call for an ambulance or rush him to the nearest hospital to be seen in the emergency room.
Treatment and Management
There is no cure for asthma. But it can be treated and managed well, so as to allow your child to participate in all activities of daily living. Recognizing the trigger factors and addressing it to your best ability, reduces asthma flare-ups. Now the medications are different for the different degrees of severity. Asthma can be classified as mild, moderate and severe based on the symptoms by your doctor and the treatment includes some short term and long term medications. Now some medicines are given as pills and others are given in the form of inhaler with spacers or with a nebulizer, which is a machine with a mask and this allows medicines to be delivered by mist droplets to the lungs. You need to formulate an asthma plan with your doctor and this plan needs to include, how to deal with trigger factors, what medicines that need to be given in a specified required situation and what you can do in the event of flare-ups or severe attack until you can reach the hospital for further care.
Ovum Hospital Team