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Tips for Dealing With Asthma in Children

Even With Childhood Asthma, Your Child CAN Have a Happy, Healthy Life

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Updated: October 23, 2008

Child With Inhaler

Child With Inhaler

Photo courtesy of NIH (Public domain)
Asthma in children is a huge issue today. Asthma affects about 20 million Americans today. In fact, nearly 1 out of every 10 children in the US has asthma. Even more disturbing is the fact that childhood asthma numbers are rising. Between 1980 and 1993, the numbers for asthma in children nearly doubled.

Asthma is also the most common chronic illness affecting kids, and is the leading cause of missed school days. Plus, child asthma places more limits on activity in kids than any other health condition. And there is no cure for it yet.

But the news isn't all bad. Although asthma in children can't be cured, it can be controlled in most cases with the proper treatment. Your job as a parent is to learn all you can about helping your child live healthy & happy with asthma.

Learn More About Asthma:

Diagnosis and Symptoms of Asthma in Children

Diagnosing asthma in children can be challenging because kids can't always describe how they are feeling, especially before they have learned to speak. But the doctor will look at your child's asthma risk factors, such as family history, to help decide if your child's breathing problems might be asthma. You may also want to find answers to some common questions about the causes of asthma too.

The doctor will also ask about your child's symptoms. Wheezing is most common in adults, but the same is not always true in children with asthma. Kids are more likely to have a chronic cough. Coughing may be worse after running or crying, and often at night. Any child who has a chronic, frequent cough should be evaluated for asthma.

Once the doctor has taken your child's family history and assessed the symptoms he or she is having, it may be time for some lung function testing.

Learn More About Childhood Asthma Diagnosis and Symptoms:

Treatment for Asthma in Children

Once the doctor has decided that your child does have asthma, it is time to classify the level of asthma. This helps the doctor prescribe the right types and amounts of treatment.

Your child's asthma treatment should be part of an overall asthma management plan that you develop with his or her doctor. Treatment involves 3 areas, which are monitoring, medication, and prevention.

Many different medications are used to treat asthma in kids and do a good job of controlling the symptoms. These generally fall into 1 of 2 categories—quick-relief medicines and controller (or preventive) medicines.

Children, especially very young ones, often take asthma medicines in a nebulizer treatment. A nebulizer is a "breathing machine" that transforms liquid medicine into mist form so that it can be inhaled through a mask. This works well for infants and toddlers, though it may take some getting used to.

As a parent, you may be reluctant to have your child take medicine at such a young age. So, you may be interested in looking into more natural treatment methods. Some of these are showing promise, but it's essential to discuss your options with your child's doctor. No alternative or complementary treatments used for asthma in children have been shown to be as effective as the FDA-approved controller and rescue medications. Not treating childhood asthma effectively can be life-threatening.

Learn More About Tracking and Treatment:

Prevention of Asthma in Children

The best way to prevent childhood asthma symptoms from worsening–other than making sure your child gets his or her asthma medication like clockwork–is to practice trigger avoidance. You can do many things, from keeping your kid indoors on windy, hot days to keeping your home as clean and dust-free as possible, to removing the family pet from the bedroom.

When you can change your child's environment enough, you'll start to notice your child is feeling much better and having fewer asthma symptoms. The need for asthma medicine may also lessen. (Be sure to always discuss any treatment changes with your doctor first.) Another approach is to de-sensitize your child to his / her triggers. This is done through what is known as allergy shots. The medical term for allergy shots is immunotherapy.

Learn More About Asthma Triggers & How to Avoid Them:

Controlling & Living With Asthma

Asthma control is the ultimate goal in childhood asthma. When asthma in children is well-controlled, your child will be able to live an active life just like other kids. So, it's important to work with your child's doctor to agree on a definition of what control is for your child. Frequently, doctors and parents are not on the same wavelength when it comes to defining asthma control, so initiating a conversation about this topic with your pediatrician is crucial to your child's health.

One of the best ways to maintain asthma control is to have an Asthma Action Plan. You may not be your child's only caregiver, so it's also essential that you provide a copy of the plan to every caregiver involved in your child's care. This may include babysitters, the school nurse, grandparents and day care workers. Be sure to go over the plan and make sure the caregiver really understands when—and what—actions to take.

Learn More About Helping Your Child Live Well With Asthma:

Kids & Sports

There is no reason why asthma should keep your child from participating in the usual play activities and sports with his or her peers. Many people with asthma, including Olympic athletes, compete in sports successfully.

Learn More About Exercise & Asthma:

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