Asthma In Children, Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
Health Education

Asthma In Children, Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Dr.Vankayalapati Sri Venkateswara Prasad profile Authored by Dr.Vankayalapati Sri Venkateswara Prasad on 28 Aug 2014 - 17:32.

Is your child diagnosed of Asthma? Are you concerned about the child's life ahead, and health? Not to worry! Asthma may not have a cure, but can be managed effectively with timely medication, precautions, awareness in dealing with it and following the doctor’s advice strictly.

The child can almost lead a normal life with the support of aware parents with sufficient knowledge about asthma. Let’s understand in detail about Asthma management from a renowned pediatrician, Dr. VSV Prasad, MD Pediatrics (A.I.I.M.S. New Delhi), Fellow - Pediatrics Critical Care & Neonatology, UK & USA, Chief  Consultant  Neonatologist & Pediatric  Intensivist and CEO, Lotus Children’s  Hospitals, Hyderabad, India.

What is asthma? Is it an allergy? Is it seasonal?

Asthma is a tendency of hyper-reactive airways in children. The disease is a form of allergy to suspended airborne particles in the atmosphere. Many allergens in the environment such as dust, mites, smoke, atmospheric pollutants and chemicals can trigger an asthma attack.  Common are viral infections of the upper respiratory tract which trigger wheezing.  Asthma can be seasonal and typically can worsen during the colder months of the year, i.e : winter.

How common is asthma in children?

In western societies, asthma is more common due to the higher prevalence of allergens such as pollen in the air. In developing countries such as India, the disease has a high prevalence of 10-20 percent of children and on the rise in urban areas of the country. With increasing urbanization, industrialization, atmospheric pollutants (suspended particulate matter, chemicals, etc.) are on the rise, directly impacting on the health of children. Asthma is one condition becoming more commonly diagnosed in India.

How do children cope with Asthma?

Most children manifest in their toddler years and the vast majority can be quite well managed with medication and simple precautions (do’s and don’ts mentioned below). Education of the family and the older child is of paramount importance about the disease.

Asthma is caused by the airways becoming hyper-reactive to a variety of stimuli. There is a tendency of wheezing. In a third of patients, there is a genetic basis. In the vast majority there is no genetic basis and atmospheric pollutants trigger the disease. Allergens such as vehicle exhaust fumes, dust, mites, etc.cause episodes of wheezing in children. Cold air (winter months) can trigger attacks of wheezing and Asthma.

In young children, asthma manifests predominantly with cough, particularly at night.Bouts of cough are followed by vomiting of sticky white mucus. In severe cases, the night is disturbed with repeated episodes of cough and breathlessness. Other symptoms include, shortness of breath, audible wheezing after play, or exercise and when the weather becomes cold. In mild patients, persistent cough, the need to clear the throat frequently and the observation of coughing with mucus are common symptoms.

In most children, a good history and physical examination suffices to accurately diagnose Asthma in children by the pediatrician. To confirm the diagnosis, simple blood tests and a chest X ray is all that is needed. In a small subset of children where a strong allergic basis exists, allergen testing is necessary. In older children with asthma, pulmonary function tests can be used to diagnose the condition. In infants, however recurrent wheezing and symptoms suggestive of Asthma can be due to other reasons such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or congenital structural abnormalities of the trachea and esophagus.

The treatment of Asthma in children has been revolutionized with the discovery and preparation of leukotriene inhibitors and inhaled bronchodilators  beta 2 agonists and anticholinergics, and steroids. The method of drug delivery has improved with the invention of various inhaler devices. These drugs need to be used cautiously with proper grading of severity of the disease and commencement of appropriate therapy. The treatment is to be closely monitored and self medication by parents is to be strictly avoided.

Can it be cured?

Asthma is a tendency for hyper-reactivity and generally improves over time with age in children. This is because the airway diameter increased over a certain age, thereby the severity of airflow obstruction due to bronchospasm decreases. There is no permanent cure for this condition, however, the disease can be well controlled with medications, and changes in the routine of children.

DO’s :

  • Do follow your children’s specialist’s/asthma specialist’s advice 
  • Do cleanse your home of potential allergens regularly
  • Do follow the medication prescribed regularly.

DON’Ts:

  • Don’t self-medicate! If your child has asthma and seems to be suffering from an acute attack, consult your children’s specialist and take your child to the hospital if the condition is not improving as expected.
  • Don’t restrict your children’s diet on the basis of hearsay and deprive of him/her of essential nutrients. Fruits, curds, etc can be safely given to your child with Asthma.
  • Don’t seek multiple medical opinions. There are standard ways of dealing with medical problems, and stick to a good professional doctor who is willing to listen to you and provide you assistance.

Since the condition is related to hyper reactive airways, those families with a strong genetic background are likely to have children suffering from various degrees of the illness. In children who have wheezing episodes predominantly due to environmental causes and factors, a change in environment or avoidance of the trigger factors’ can reduce or ameliorate symptoms and episodes. Clean surroundings, control of house dust, mites, animal danders, etc can prevent flare ups of the disease. Diet has a very small role to play in Asthma.

*Disclaimer This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.