Asthma symptoms vary depending on a few major factors, one of them being seasonal change. With spring time approaching and children going outside to play in warmer weather, it is important to review prevention methods. A recent article posted by Dr. Michael Rosenthal on Delaware online provides a good overview. Spring brings with it a slew of new triggers that can impact asthma. These include air pollution, pollen and increased exposure to animals. Thus, medication adherence is especially important during this time as it could prevent dangerous symptoms.
Childhood asthma is the most common chronic disease in children, and can occur year-round. Now that spring has arrived and children are heading outside to play, it’s a good time to consider the impact and dangers of this disease, as well as how to protect against asthma attacks.
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways, causing wheezing, shortness of breath and coughing. The smaller airways within the lungs have a hard time moving air in and out, making breathing difficult.
Causes of asthma range from genetics to allergens and pollutants. No cure for asthma exists, although some children have fewer symptoms as they get older only to have it recur later in life due to certain triggers.
More than 7 million children nationwide have asthma. The disease accounts for more hospitalizations than any other childhood illness and more than 3,000 childhood deaths each year.
Aside from the health problems, asthma can affect learning and school performance. Among children ages 5 to 17, it is the leading cause of absences from school related to a chronic illness. Children with asthma miss an average of eight days per year, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
Given that asthma is activated by triggers unique to each individual, the way to control it is by keeping those triggers at bay. For example, if your child’s asthma is triggered by indoor air pollution, you should not smoke in the house or anywhere near them (or, better yet, don’t smoke at all!) Lingering environmental tobacco smoke will only exacerbate their asthma. Other indoor triggers include pet hair, cockroaches, dust and mold.
Outdoor air pollution also can be a trigger. Pollen that comes from trees and grass and high ozone levels during the summer can exacerbate your child’s asthma. If that is the case, you should limit your child’s outdoor activity on days when the pollen count is high or when ozone levels are up. Easy-to-use air quality “apps” like the one from the American Lung Association for your smartphone or tablet can be helpful guides.
Medication is another way to control asthma. Anti-inflammatory medications lower mucus production and airway reactivity. These medications should be included as part of the treatment of all children with recurrent and persistent asthma. Bronchodilators also can be used to relax the muscles in the airways, making it easier to breathe. Some of those medications are also defined as “rescue inhalers” and should be kept within reach for easy access if an attack comes on.
It is important to identify the early signs of worsening asthma to help prevent a severe attack. Those warning signs include wheezing, tightness in the chest and severe coughing (especially at night). It’s important to pay attention to these warning signs so you can ensure your child takes their medications as soon as possible.
It’s also important to work with your child’s health-care provider to establish an asthma action plan. The plan will have instructions on what to do if asthma symptoms get worse. The plan also should cover what to do if an attack occurs, such as which medications to use, when to call the doctor’s office, and when a visit to the emergency department is warranted. You also should encourage your child to speak up at school to their teacher or school nurse if they experience the warning signs of an oncoming attack.
Partner with your physician to help you and your child identify the triggers, recognize the warning signs of an oncoming asthma attack and create an asthma action plan. No cure exists for asthma yet, but the proper use of the right medications can greatly diminish the dangers of this disease and lead to a happy, normal childhood.
Dr. Michael Rosenthal is chair of the Department of Family & Community Medicine at Christiana Care Health System.
The original article can be found here.
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