Childhood asthma

Your child suffers from asthma. Whenever there any change in weather, you dread that your child would be again having struggling to breathe and wheeze. More than your child, it’s you who suffer more, and are more uncomfortable. A child with asthma needs extra care and protection; a good understanding of his condition may help you to help him live better with asthma.

Asthma- An overview

Asthma is not a condition of the recent times. Its existence dates back to ancient Egypt. The word asthma comes from the Greek word, “aazein” which means to pant or exhale with mouth open. In the early 20th century, asthma was regarded as a psychosomatic disorder. It was only in the 1960’s that the inflammatory nature of asthma was first recognized.

Asthma is a condition in which the airways in the lungs get inflamed due to trigger factors like pollen dust, mold, air pollution, cigarette smoke, common cold, flu, cold weather and exercise. Asthma in children affects their school work, play, and sleep. Children feel much troubled by the symptoms of asthma and when it is left untreated it leads to asthma attacks that can be dangerous.

During an asthma attack the mucus in the lungs get’s clogged in the airways causing the air tubes in the lung to tighten and swell. During such an attack, the child experiences symptoms like wheezing, cough with mucus, breathing problem, congestion and tightening of chest, chest pain, difficulty in talking, sleep problems, and fatigue.

Treating asthma

There are several medications to treat the symptoms of asthma. To stop asthma attack, a bronchodilator may be prescribed. The bronchodilator when used opens up the blocked airways in the lung and helps in easy breathing. To prevent asthma attack, anti-inflammatory medications are prescribed by the doctor that has to be taken daily. These medications prevent the airway from swelling and thus prevent asthma attack from occurring. You must take all medications only after consulting your doctor.

Life with Asthma

Life for a child with asthma can be challenging at times. You must inform the school authorities, teachers, school nurses and coaches if your child is asthmatic. Your child can feel embarrassed to use the bronchodilator in front of other children .It is important to let your child know the importance of using it. It is better that you tell your child’s classmates as well so that they do not make fun of your child when it has to use the bronchodilator. You must let your child know that being asthmatic is not a disability; it is just a health condition that can be dealt with easily. Giving all the emotional support you can for your child will make it easier for your child to deal with asthma better.

A Peak flow meter is a device that helps to measure the amount of air that is coming out of lungs. In people with asthma the air coming out of lungs is low. With the help of this device you can check your child’s air flow from lungs and determine how serious the asthma attack is. The peak flow meter device has a meter scale with indicator on it. Make sure the reading on the device is at zero. The child has to blow into the mouth piece of the device after taking a deep breath. The reading on the meter scale is shown by the indicator. This way the readings are taken two more times and the highest of the three readings is noted. When asthma is in complete control, the reading taken gives you the ‘personal best score’. It is the best reading that you take in two weeks after asthma control. You can now compare the daily scores you record on the peak flow meter to the personal best score. This will give you an idea whether your child’s condition is improving or not.

The peak flow zone system has three zones of different colors like the traffic light system that indicate how your child is doing. The peak scores are put into one of the three zones to study the severity of the asthma your child is having.

  • Green zone: When your child gets a score that is 80% to 100% of your personal best score then it shows that your child’s asthma is under control. In this stage the child does not show any symptoms but it is recommended that the child should take its preventive medication.

  • Yellow zone: When your child gets a score that is 50% to 80% of the personal best score then the readings fall in the yellow zone which indicates that the condition of your child’s asthma is getting worse. The child shows symptoms like wheezing and coughing. You should consult your doctor for advice.

  • Red Zone: This zone indicates a medical emergency where the scores are below 50 % of the personal best score. In this condition the child’s fingernails and lips turn bluish in color. The child will have severe breathing problem, coughing and wheezing. There is no time to lose in this condition. The child has to be taken to the hospital immediately.

To keep your child safe from asthma, it is important that you recognize the trigger factors causing asthma in your child. You must keep your child away from irritants and trigger factors like pollen, dust, pet dander, mold, food preservatives, tobacco smoke, certain perfumes and deodorants, Aspirin, sinus infections, exercise, change in temperature, emotional situations, heartburn and certain viruses.

Once you recognize the trigger factors you must take steps to avoid them. If pollen dust is causing the problem then close your windows and doors to avoid pollen from getting in. To prevent mold, keep areas of kitchen and bathroom clean and dry. You can use a dehumidifier to keep the humidity low thus preventing growth of mold. To avoid dust and dust mites, wash your draperies regularly in hot water that is above 130 F. Chemically treated carpets keep the dust mites away. Stuffed toys generally catch dust. Try to keep them away from dust. Do not let pets enter the house or the area where your child stays as pet dander can trigger asthma attack. Do not let your child get exposed to any air pollution or tobacco smoke.