Childhood asthma: What you need to know

For parents of children who have asthma, it's scary to see your child have trouble breathing. You'll want to learn what you can about this chronic condition so you can recognize the symptoms and help your child manage his or her asthma.

»RELATED: Why antacids — not an inhaler — may be the key to treating asthma

Here's a guide to what you need to know:

What is asthma, and how many kids have it?

About 6 million children in the U.S. have asthma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It's a chronic condition that causes the sides of the airways in the lungs to become too narrow so that too little air moves in and out of the lungs.

What are the symptoms of asthma?

When you think of asthma symptoms, you probably think of wheezing. Although that's definitely one of its signs and symptoms, WebMD says there are also others you'll want to look out for in your child, including the following:

  • Frequent coughing spells – may be the only symptom present
  • Less energy while playing – needing frequent breaks when compared to his or her friends
  • Labored, rapid breathing
  • Tightness in the chest or neck muscles
  • Weakness or tiredness
  • Dark circles under the eyes
  • Frequent headaches 
  • Loss of appetite

Symptoms can vary from one child to another, or even from one episode to another for the same child.

How is asthma diagnosed?

If your child has one or more of the above symptoms, a pediatrician can help determine if your child has asthma. This is more difficult if your child is under 5, but in general, the following can aid in diagnosing or ruling out asthma:

  • Family history – A family history of asthma or allergies can increase your child's risk of having these conditions as well.
  • Symptoms – Keep a good record of your child's symptoms, including whether they get worse at any specific time of day, when doing something in particular or around any common triggers.
  • Lung function tests – These tests can help make a definitive diagnosis of asthma, but they can be difficult to perform on very young children.
  • Asthma medications – Your child's pediatrician may suggest that your child try asthma medication for four to six weeks to see if this helps alleviate symptoms.

»RELATED: Infants given antibiotics, antacids may have increased allergy, asthma risk

How is asthma treated?

You can help your child manage the following asthma treatments:

  • Taking medicine – If your child's doctor prescribes medicine, make sure to help him or her take it as prescribed. He or she should also be told about the importance of taking the medicine in order to stay well.
  • Avoiding triggers – Help your child avoid common asthma triggers, including tobacco smoke, dust mites, outdoor air pollution, cockroaches, mold and smoke from burning wood or grass. In addition, if your child has a cold or the flu, he or she should be treated promptly.
  • Getting a flu shot – The flu can make your child's asthma medication more likely to fail, so a yearly flu shot is recommended, according to studies cited by USA Today.
  • Communicating with your child's school – If your child is school-age, he or she will spend much of their day away from you, so it's vital to make sure it's a safe environment. Talk to the school nurse and any other health care personnel about your child's asthma. Provide and explain any medication your child needs to take. You'll also need to give your school permission to communicate with your child's doctor in case of an emergency or change in treatment. Have an Asthma Action Plan on file at the school, and make sure your child has immediate access to quick-relief medicine and knows how and when to use it.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Health

Bipartisan group improving Ohio’s outdoors opportunities
Bipartisan group improving Ohio’s outdoors opportunities

A bipartisan effort to improve Ohio’s 3,000-plus-mile network of trails, headed in part by a Warren County state lawmaker, has been an example for other states in driving improvement of outdoors opportunities, officials said. The bipartisan Ohio Legislative Trails Caucus, thought to be the first of its kind, is headed by two state senators, Steve...
Low-carb diets can help keep the weight off, study says
Low-carb diets can help keep the weight off, study says

There are several diets that promote weight loss, including low-carb plans. Now experts have more evidence to prove they work, according to a new report.  Researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital recently conducted a small study, published in the British Medical Journal, to determine the link between weight loss maintenance...
These jobs have the highest suicide rates in the country, CDC says
These jobs have the highest suicide rates in the country, CDC says

Jobs can be stressful, but there are some that cause more of a mental strain than others, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency recently conducted a study to determine the occupational groups with the highest suicide rates. To do so, they examined data from 17 states that participated...
How you can help Legendary Lights of Clifton Mill earn national bragging rights
How you can help Legendary Lights of Clifton Mill earn national bragging rights

For more than 30 years, Clifton Mill has been a glowing example of what the holiday season is about in Southwest Ohio.  The official website published its Ohio Holiday Lights Trail list, and Clifton Mill was near the top of most spectacular light shows in the state. The recognition comes just in time, as Clifton Mill is in the running...
The best Amazon Black Friday deals of 2018
The best Amazon Black Friday deals of 2018

Not a fan of the chaos that inevitably comes with in-person Black Friday shopping? » RELATED: Amazon offers free shipping for all during 2018 holiday season If you’d rather get in on the fun from the comfort of your couch or bed, e-commerce giant Amazon has plenty of deals for its customers just in time for the holidays....
More Stories