Asthma is an inflammatory condition affecting the lungs and airways. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, asthma affects as many as six million children in the United States. The signs of asthma can develop following exposure to allergen triggers, respiratory infections, extreme temperature fluctuations, or exercise.
Although asthma can’t be cured, childhood asthma symptoms can be managed to prevent damage to the growing lungs and allow the child to participate in normal activities. By recognizing the early signs of asthma, you also can help prevent a potentially life-threatening attack.
Common Asthma Causes
In general, asthma causes in children are the same as for adults; however, children do face unique challenges, including:
- Increased need for emergency medical treatment or hospital care
- A permanent decrease in lung function
- Difficulty participating in sports, play, and other activities
- Poor sleep and fatigue
- Getting behind in school because of an excessive number of missed days
Individuals with asthma have an increased immune response that triggers the lungs and airway to swell and produce excess mucus when exposed to certain triggers. The most common triggers are:
- Allergens, such as pollen, mold, dust, and pet dander
- Exposure to tobacco smoke and other air pollutants
- Sudden weather changes or exposure to cold air
- Colds or other respiratory infections
Risk Factors for Asthma in Children
Although asthma causes still aren’t fully understood, certain factors are believed to make an individual more susceptible to developing symptoms, including:
- Having a parent with asthma
- Developing certain types of respiratory infections at an early age
- An inherited tendency toward allergies
- Exposure to environmental pollutants and irritants
- A history of gastrointestinal reflux disease
Males, African Americans, and Puerto Ricans tend to develop asthma at higher rates than females and other racial and ethnic groups.
Common Asthma Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of asthma can vary from child to child and change in severity and frequency over time. During an asthma attack, children may have frequent coughing, complain of shortness of breath, experience chest tightness or congestion, and wheeze or make a whistling sound when breathing out. It is common for children with asthma to have difficulty sleeping because of wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath, which can lead to fatigue. It is also common for children with asthma to have delayed healing following respiratory infections.
Diagnosing Childhood Asthma Symptoms
Asthma can be difficult to diagnose since respiratory tract infections, airway abnormalities, and other conditions can cause similar symptoms. In children under the age of five, diagnosis is largely based on the information provided by the parent or caregiver. In older children, lung function tests and exhaled nitric oxide tests may be used to confirm the diagnosis. Since asthma and allergies often occur together, the doctor may also perform allergy testing.
Treatment and Management of Asthma in Children
The treatment of asthma is determined by the severity of the symptoms and typically involves a combination of long-term control medications, quick-acting emergency medications, and allergy medications if the symptoms are allergy induced.
When to See a Doctor Regarding Asthma Symptoms
Make an appointment with your child’s doctor right away if you notice any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above or if your child makes statements such as, “I’m always coughing,” “It hurts to breathe,” or “My chest feels funny.”
You should go to the emergency room if your child shows any of the following symptoms:
- They have to stop in the middle of a sentence to catch their breath
- Their nostrils flare when trying to breathe in
- Their abdomen retracts under the ribs when they try to breathe in
- You notice that they’re using their abdominal muscles to breathe
Preventing Symptoms of Asthma in Children
As a parent, there are several steps you can take to reduce your child’s risk of developing asthma or experiencing an asthma attack:
- Limit your child’s exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke
- As long as your child’s symptoms are controlled, encourage them to be physically active since this will help improve lung function and capacity
- Limit your child’s exposure to common allergen triggers
- Your child’s symptoms can evolve over time, so have regular doctor checkups, especially if you notice an increase in the severity or frequency of symptoms
- Encourage your child to maintain a healthy weight since excess weight can exacerbate symptoms and put your child at risk of other health conditions
- Use over-the-counter or prescription medications as recommended by your doctor to control acid reflux symptoms
For less severe symptoms, your local FastMed provider is available during extended hours, seven days a week, including holidays. Our qualified medical team can provide fast and convenient asthma relief with no need for an appointment. Online check-in and registration are available to reduce your in-clinic wait time.
FastMed Urgent Care owns and operates nearly 200 centers in North Carolina, Arizona and Texas that provide a broad range of acute/episodic and preventive healthcare services 365 days a year. FastMed also provides workers’ compensation and other occupational health services at all its centers, and family and sports medicine services at select locations. FastMed has successfully treated more than six million patients and is the only independent urgent care operator in North Carolina, Arizona and Texas to be awarded The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval® for quality, safety and infection control in ambulatory healthcare. For more information about locations, services, hours of operation, insurance and prices, visit www.fastmed.com.