What is asthma?
Asthma is a condition that can make it difficult to breathe. This is because during an asthma attack or flare-up, the muscles around the airways tighten, and the lining of the airways gets inflamed. Then, mucus builds up. Asthma causes symptoms only when there is a flare up. It runs in families.
What are the symptoms of asthma?
Asthma symptoms can include:
- Wheezing, or noisy breathing
- Coughing, often at night or early in the morning, or on exercising
- Difficulty in breathing
Symptoms can happen each day, each week, or less often and can be mild to severe.
What are some common asthma triggers?
- Cigarette smoke
- Viral infections causing cold
- Strong perfumes or odours
- Air pollution
- Very cold and dry air as seen in winter season
- Dust mites – tiny bugs seen in beds, couches, carpets etc.
- Molds – are found in damp and wet places.
- Dogs and cats – Animal saliva, urine, or dander.
- Pollen from trees, grass, and weeds
- Cockroach droppings
Your doctor might do allergy tests which are blood or skin tests to see if you have allergic triggers.
Is there a test for asthma?
A test called spirometry can be done in children above the age of 6 years to see the function of the lungs. But asthma can also be diagnosed by examining the patient and asking questions on the child’s symptoms.
How is asthma treated?
The best medicines are inhalers which are most effective, safe and quick acting medicines with minimal side effects. Unlike popular beliefs they are not strong and are not addicting, Asthma medicines include:
- Quick-relief medicines– These medicines are used when the child has symptoms of cough or breathlessness for quick relief. If your child needs these medicines often then asthma is not under control and you need to inform your doctor. Most children tolerate these medicines well.
- Long-term controller medicines -This is required if your child has frequent symptoms or several severe episodes in a year. These medicines need to be taken daily and they control asthma.
Mostly all children with asthma use an inhaler with a device called a “spacer.” Some children need a machine called a “nebulizer” to breathe in their medicine. This is only required in a hospital setting if your child is breathless. A doctor or nurse will show you the right way to use these.
Asthma that is not treated with the right medicines can:
- Prevent children from doing normal activities, such as playing sports
- Make children miss school
- 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.
Can asthma symptoms be prevented?
You can help prevent your child’s asthma symptoms by giving your child the daily controller medicines and avoiding triggers.
Sometimes, asthma gets better as children get older. They might not have symptoms of asthma when they become adults. But other children can still have asthma when they grow up.