Asthma in Children: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Prevention

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Of all ailments affecting the respiratory system in the human body, Asthma gets a special mention. This is a chronic respiratory disease which inflames the airways –leading to temporary contraction of passage carrying oxygen to your lungs. This leads to moderate to severe breathing problems, accompanied by wheezing, coughing and a feeling of toughness in the chest. People can live with asthma if they get proper treatment, but lack of adequate treatment may lead to crippled life. Like adults of all age groups, children too can fall prey to asthma without any warning.

Asthma in Children: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Nuances of Asthma in Children

A significant number of children get afflicted with asthma worldwide every year. It can affect the kids at any age, but the majority of them experience the onslaught when they turn five. The risk factors for contracting childhood asthma are:

  • Family history of asthma
  • Low birth weight
  • Recurring respiratory infections
  • Exposure to smoking after birth
  • Puerto-Rican/black ethnicity

Asthma in Children

Is asthma a communicable disease? 

Contrary to the widespread perception, asthma is not a communicable and contagious ailment. Its actual cause is yet to be identified, but factors like heredity, environmental elements and certain medications are often deemed responsible for triggering the onset, both in the adults and kids.

Should chronic cough in children be taken as symptom of asthma?

While chronic cough may very well be a symptom of asthma in kids- in many cases it may be a symptom of other respiratory disorders. This can be rather confusing in toddlers as far as diagnosis is concerned. If the recurring cough is also accompanied by other prominent asthma symptoms such as breathing problems and a sensation of tightness in the chest, it could be an indicator of childhood asthma.

How is asthma diagnosed in children? 

As a matter of fact, not everyone affected by asthma exhibit same signs and in the kids, detection can be more tedious than it is in the adults. The signs of asthma in the kids are often confused with signs of other respiratory disorders in children. In most cases of childhood asthma, recurrent fits of coughing and wheezing are found. However, in some instances wheezing may not be found. The instances of chest tightness and fast breathing, in a repeated manner may indicate asthma in kids. The symptoms are worsened by viral infection, Smokes, pollutants in air, humidity level etc.

Usually, a breathing test called Spirometry is done to confirm the onset of asthma in the kids. However, this is not usually done on the children who are below 5 years. However, sometimes the doctors may perform allergy skin testing to diagnose asthma in the toddlers.

Can asthma be cured? If not, how can it be controlled? 

Sad as it may sound, Asthma still has no cure, the target of treatment is reducing the severity of symptoms and helping the afflicted persons, both adults and kids- lead life with fewer difficulties and restrictions. With proper treatment, the severity can be reduced to a great extent.

Since the children are not always in a position to differentiate symptoms of an asthma attack from other respiratory ailments, treating asthma in kids requires a more balanced and somewhat different approach than the treatment for the adults. Basically, the treatment for asthma in kids involves using apt medications, avoiding known triggers, keeping a tab on symptoms and evading air based irritants.

Doctors typically prepare child specific asthma action plan, based on the health history of the kid and severity of the ailment. This plan contains the details like the intervals between visits to the doctor, type of medications to use, emergency asthma control measures etc. The parents of asthma-afflicted kids also need to develop knowledge on basics like quick-relief medications, ways to apply such medications and

Goals of treating asthma in the kids

While asthma in anyone, including kids cannot be cured- controlling its severity and recurrence of attacks is the target of treatment. The main goals of treating asthma in the kids are:

  • Helping them lead a normal life
  • Thwart chronic respiratory attacks
  • Helping them carry on with schooling
  • Helping them pursue sports activities
  • Reducing the need to see a doctor frequently
  • Reducing the need to use quick-relief medications

A lot of facts on childhood asthma, its roots and remedies are still unclear. It is difficult to say if a child afflicted with asthma in young years will get relief when he/she grows up. However, in several instances, children have experienced significant reduction of asthma symptoms after getting into puberty. However, there are also instances of asthma recurring in adulthood. It is quite hard even for veteran doctors to predict the chance of recurrence of asthma.

Sometimes, kids may develop allergy caused asthmas. Such cases are treated using specific medications. These include Xolair (injectable), nasal spray antihistamines, decongestants like corticosteroid, Immunotherapy injections

Medications

While cautions should be taken while giving Asthma symptom lowering drugs to the children, the fact is majority of such drugs are variants of what is already used for adult asthma victims. Inhaled steroids can be given to infants with chronic asthma. However, kids below 4 years are administered medications with lower doses and in different ways. Based on the affected child’s response to asthma medications and treatment, the doctors may advise modifications to drug dosage. Sometimes, asthma nebulizer is used to give drugs to the kids. The factors like age of the child, immunity level, and overall health come into the picture.

Lifestyle changes

Since the majority of asthma treatment in the kids are aimed at lowering severity of attacks, making some changes in lifestyle can also be of help. Taking such steps can help the kids stay away from possible triggers. This can be done in a number of ways.

  • Sometimes, using a dehumidifier device can be helpful. It is an option when the child stays in a place with damp climate.
  • If the air quality is poor and there is abundance of dust particles in the area where you live, using an air purifier can help. Modern air purifiers can soak in all types of dust particles and airborne microorganism, thus keeping the indoor air clean. Some air conditioners are also equipped with dust filter. Air conditioning also lowers humidity in indoor air and that can be helpful.
  • It is better if you do not have pets with fur and feathers at home when the child has asthma.
  • Using vacuum cleaners to keep rooms free of dust and dirt can be helpful when your kid has asthma. The pollens, dust mites and dirt can be minimized to a large extent by using vacuum cleaners. It is better that you do not use carpets on floors and same is true of rugs. These act as dust magnets.
  • Children afflicted with asthma often undergo elevated stress during or after the attacks. Using relaxation techniques like meditation can be helpful to an extent.
  • Parents of kids afflicted with asthma should provide them with enough mental support and encouragement to help them cope with the conditions. It is necessary that you try and help the child battle the stress. You should try to remain calm and deal with the situation with compassion without agitation when the child suffers an asthma attack. If you get rattled, the child will also become stressed out- thereby reducing the efficacy of treatment. The parents should not deal with their kids in a restrictive way. They should be encouraged to play, but parents should explain the risks of activities that can trigger asthma symptoms.
  • It would be a good idea to connect with other people whose kids are also afflicted with asthma. Forming an informal support group with parents of similar kids can help the kid in the long run. On the internet, social media channels and groups can be used to find and connect with such people.

Is child Asthma curable in homeopathy?

There is considerable debate regarding the efficacy of homeopathy in curing breathing disorders like asthma, more so with children. While the proponents of homeopathic medications believe using such treatments can effectively eliminate asthma in kids, medical science does not really accept such views. A number of studies have been conducted that indicate homeopathic remedies do not bring specific benefits for the kids already undergoing traditional asthma treatments. However, it is true that kids suffering from asthma usually respond to homeopathic medications well and lowering of symptoms is certainly possible. At best, homeopathy can be sought as complementary treatment for treating asthma in the kids.

Things to keep in mind

While alternative remedies for treating asthma in children are being tried, there is very little established clinical evidence of their efficacy. The risk of side effects stemming from using such therapies cannot be undermined either. So, without consulting a doctor trying alternative asthma therapies like acupuncture and herbal remedies on kids is not advisable. Enhancing knowledge on both quick-relief medications and long-term treatment goals are what parents of kids afflicted with asthma should focus on.

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