While asthma can affect people of all ages, children with asthma have special concerns. Childhood asthma is one of the most common reasons that children visit doctors, miss days at school or are admitted to the hospital. But with proper management, children can be able to live a healthy, active life.
What Is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic lung disease—meaning you live with it daily—that affects your airways. It can be serious and even life-threatening. Asthma causes the inside walls of your airways (tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs) to become sore and swollen, making it difficult to breathe. It can start at any age, from young children to later in life.
Asthma in Toddlers (Children Under 5)
Because infants and toddlers have much smaller airways than older children or adults, even small blockages caused by other illnesses, such as a cold or viral infection, can make it more difficult for the child to breathe.
Although there is no way to determine which children will develop asthma, certain predictors have been identified, such as a family history of asthma or allergies, living in areas with high pollution, obesity, and exposure to tobacco smoke. Many children have symptoms of asthma before they turn 5. Symptoms of asthma include:
- Fast breathing
- Panting with normal activities such as playing
- Wheezing (a whistling sound)
- Working harder to breathe (exaggerated belly movement, nostrils flaring, skin sucking in around and between ribs)
- Persistent coughing
- Tiredness, disinterest in normal or favorite activities
- Difficulty sucking or eating
- Very pale or blue coloring in face, lips, and/or fingernails
Many things can also trigger asthma symptoms to make them worse, such as:
- Allergens – animals, mold, pollen
- Irritants – cigarette smoke or air pollution
- Weather – cold air or sudden changes in the weather
- Infections – flu or common cold
If asthma symptoms become worse than usual, it is called an asthma attack.
When to See a Pediatrician
As soon as you suspect that your child has asthma, take your child to see a pediatrician. Early treatment can help control symptoms and possibly prevent asthma attacks.
Notice if your child:
- Has a constant cough that seems related to physical activity
- Wheezes or whistles when breathing out
- Has shortness of breath (trouble breathing) or rapid breathing
- Complains of chest tightness
- Has repeated episodes of suspected bronchitis or pneumonia
These may be signs that they have asthma.
Treatment for Asthma in Toddlers
Infants and toddlers can use most medicines used for older children and adults. Asthma is treated with two kinds of medicines: quick-relief medications and long-term control medicines.
- Quick-relief medications stop symptoms of an asthma attack and are usually given in inhaled forms, like an inhaler. They should only be used as needed or for emergencies. Toddlers are usually given an inhaler using a spacer with a mask. An inhaler is fitted into the mask and a spacer, a small tube that holds the medication released by the inhaler, allows children to breathe in the medication.
- Long-term control medicines are taken on a daily basis to control airway swelling and other symptoms. These can be inhaled or given in pill form. Some medications even have chewable and sprinkle forms for young children.
In severe attacks you might see your child struggling to breathe, or they might have an increased heartbeat, sweating, or chest pain. Seek emergency care if your child:
- Is using abdominal muscles to breathe
- Has widened nostrils when breathing in
- Has to stop mid sentence to catch their breath
- Is working so hard to breath that their abdomen is being sucked under the ribs
Even if your child hasn’t been diagnosed with asthma, seek medical attention immediately if they have trouble breathing.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for asthma, but visiting your healthcare provider often for regular checkups can help your child stay up to date with the best treatments available. Jai Medical Systems offers an Asthma Disease Management Program that will help you and your child understand how to control asthma, keep you updated on new information, and connect you with health professionals that will help you manage your child’s health. If you would like to know more about the Asthma Disease Management Program, please call us at 1-888-524-1999 today.