Boy blowing bubbles (Photo Credit: Thinkstock)

While childhood asthma and adult asthma are not two different entities, you are likely to find childhood asthma more frightening. When your little one has difficulty breathing, it’s terrifying. The gasping and wheezing are enough to send any parent into a panic. However, you do not have to panic. There are ways you can treat asthma and help prevent asthma attacks within your child.

Asthma is a chronic disease, so you have to get used to it. With asthma, the airways become obstructed. Oftentimes, this is a non-emergency that you can deal with at home. Other times, it is something that needs emergency medical attention. The Mayo Clinic lists the symptoms of asthma as:

  • Frequent intermittent cough
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Congestion in the chest
  • Tightness of the chest
  • Chest pain
  • Nighttime coughing
  • Sleep disturbances due to difficulty breathing
  • Long recovery times after respiratory illness
  • Fatigue

Causes of Asthma in Children

The Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America reports that asthma is something your child is born with. However, many things can trigger asthma symptoms.

  • Allergies – Children with asthma tend to have allergies as well. They may be allergic to cats, dogs, horses and any number of furry animals. Other allergies include pollens, dust mites and mold.
  • Pollutants – Air pollutants like cigarette smoke, campfires, car exhaust, cleaning sprays, chemical fumes and much more can irritate the airways of an asthmatic child.
  • Exercise – Physical activities, particularly cardiovascular exercise, can trigger asthma symptoms.
  • Temperature and moisture of the air – Air that is too dry, moist or cold can irritate the airways in anyone, but asthmatics are more sensitive.
  • Respiratory infections – Respiratory infections like colds and the flu often exacerbate asthma symptoms.
  • Emotional outbursts – Whether your child is yelling, crying or holding his or her breath in a corner pouting, it can make asthma symptoms worse.

Seasonal Risk Factors for Asthma Sufferers

Every season brings its own risks for asthmatic children.

  • Pollen – In spring and summer, pollen counts can be nearly unbearable for severe asthma sufferers.
  • Fires – While people burn wood at all times of year, summer sees more outdoor wood burning, which means the burning of allergens like plant material.
  • Cold wind/air – Being outdoors in the winter is difficult for some asthma sufferers.

How Asthma Impacts Children’s Lives

Unfortunately, a child with asthma will have to learn to live with it. There are many difficulties that he or she will face, but they are generally surmountable.

  • Difficulty exercising
  • Potential weight gain from steroid medications and lack of exercise
  • School missed for hospital visits
  • Remembering to keep an inhaler handy
  • Fatigue from lack of sleep or allergy medications
  • Inability to enjoy certain activities, such as petting animals

Tips for Treating Childhood Asthma

Asthma will always be present for your child, but you can manage it and make your child more comfortable.

  • Keep medicines handy – Your child will likely have an inhaler for regular use and possibly a rescue inhaler. Daily medications are also used to fight asthma. Use these medications as directed by your pediatrician and make sure the school nurse has them, your child takes them on sleepovers, and you have them within a few seconds reach at all times.
  • Treat colds and allergies quickly, even preemptively – When your child comes down with a cold, treat it right away. If his or her allergies act up, use medication or get away from the causal factors. Keep an eye on the pollen count so you can avoid being outdoors when it’s really bad.
  • Keep pollutants and allergens out of your house – Do not keep pets to which your child is allergic. Clean the filters on all of your heating, cooling and ventilation systems regularly. Try to use hypoallergenic products for cleaning. Keep your windows closed during burning season. Open your windows and air out your house when the air quality outside is good. Do not smoke inside your house with your children in it. Do not bring your child to a smoker’s home. These precautions will go a long way in keeping asthma symptoms at bay.
  • Exercise and keep weight normal An asthmatic child may have a hard time exercising, but that does not mean exercise should be eliminated. Children with asthma need exercise like any other child. Furthermore, it helps them keep a healthy weight, which alleviates asthma symptoms.

Remember that asthma is a serious medical condition. Only a licensed medical professional can determine the proper course of treatment. Be sure to use the medications prescribed exactly as directed. If you have questions about asthma, consult your doctor.

Shelly Barclay is a professional freelance writer and amateur author. She writes on a variety of topics from food to mysteries. She loves to share the culture and rich history of her birthplace and home, Boston, with the rest of the world. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.

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