Asthma in Children
Asthma is the most common chronic disease in children, affecting 5.1 million kids in the U.S. It’s an incurable condition where airways become inflamed and narrowed, causing tightness in the chest, wheezing and/or coughing. Asthma attacks can be mild, severe or even life-threatening.
Asthma risk factors include:
Family history of allergies and asthma
Exposure to tobacco smoke prenatally and postnatally
Living in an area with high air pollution
Symptoms of allergies include:
- Coughing, especially coughing that’s constant, worsens with respiratory viruses, interferes with sleep and is exacerbated by cold air and exercise
- Wheezing or whistling sounds when breathing
- Chest tightness
- Problems sleeping due to cough or difficulty breathing
- Infants have trouble feeding, may grunt or have difficulty sucking
- Often triggered by allergies
While asthma can’t be cured, it can be managed and kept from worsening. Many kids will require both daily maintenance medications to prevent/minimize attacks and rescue inhaler medications to use during an asthma attack. Oral meds and nasal sprays can also help with allergies. Medicines may be administered through a nebulizer, a machine that turns the medication into a mist and is inhaled via a mask or mouthpiece.
Parents should keep a diary to track children’s symptoms and to determine possible triggers. Additionally, children will have Asthma Action Plans to clearly outline what to do when they have an asthma attack and ways to prevent them. A simple one-page sheet will simplify the plan to share with your child’s school, relatives and caregivers.
Asthma at School
Kids should always keep their rescue inhalers on them, even in school. It’s legal in every state for a child to keep an inhaler with them rather than needing to get to the school or nurse’s office. The Action Plan should be incorporated into a child’s Individual Health Plan (IHP) or 504 Plan at school.
Asthma at Home
Ways to help your child’s asthma:
- Don’t allow smoke in the home
- Remove carpets
- Replace HVAC air filters regularly
- Run exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens
- Close windows if pollution or pollen counts are high
- Use products certified by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American (AAFA) such as bedding, cleaning products, vacuums, paint, flooring and air cleaners
- Keep humidity below 50%; use a dehumidifier if needed
- Avoid strong fragrances in the home
- Keep dust, mold and mildew under control