Asthma in Infants - Signs, Symptoms and Treatment - Health Education - DesiMD Healthcare - India
Health Education

Understanding Asthma in Infants

Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi profile Authored by Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi on 5 Jul 2014 - 16:09.

Asthma in children

All those who have asthma necessarily wheeze. All those who wheeze need not necessarily be cases of asthma.

Children may wheeze because of a bad cold or a respiratory infection. However, if the baby also coughs frequently and has known allergies (including food allergies) and your family has history of asthma and allergies there is always a good chance that your child has asthma.

What is asthma?

It is estimated that roughly 5 percent of all children less than one year suffer from asthma and the number is increasing. Asthma is a chronic condition in which a person's airways tend to become inflamed and get filled with mucus whenever they are exposed to several triggering factors like respiratory infection or a known allergy. During an attack of asthma the body reacts by coughing. The tiny branches of the lungs in the infant go into spasms in an attempt to expel the mucus. If the mucus is thick and tenacious the effort to expel becomes a struggle giving a pathetic scene to the onlookers especially the parents. This struggle leads to difficulty in breathing. In some cases asthmatic attacks can be life threatening.

What are the signs of asthma?

If your child is having difficulty in breathing, nostrils are flared and with an attempt to draw more air, the skin around the ribs get drawn in with every attempt the child makes to breath in, or the child appears to be turning blue in colour, it is important  to reach out for emergency services immediately.

What causes Asthma?

In babies less than six months old, a condition called RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) may lead to an attack of asthma. The condition can also be triggered by cold or bronchitis. Dr.Gilbert Friday a noted pediatric allergist of United States opines that those infants who have RSV infection during their first year of life may become asthmatic in later life.  This possibility also exists if the child has known food allergy (eggs, shellfish, cow's milk and nuts). Therefore it is advised that children should not be introduced to these food items till the child is at least one year old.

Environmental allergens don't come into picture until the child attains toddler years. The reason for this is that it takes a minimum period of six months of exposure to the environmental allergens like a cat or any pet animal to become sensitized. Seasonal allergies like hay fever usually will not show up until a child is 4 to 5 years old.

Unfortunately nothing can be done to prevent asthma if the child has it in the genes. And there is no way of knowing until the child exhibits consistent symptoms like wheezing and constant coughing.

If both the parents have allergies and asthma, there is a strong likelihood that the child will have asthma as well. Having said this one can delay the onset of asthma until the baby is older (and his lungs become bigger and stronger) if you observe the following:

  • Practice good hygiene with a view to limiting child's exposure to viruses.
  • Avoid foods that are known to cause allergic reaction like eggs, nuts and cow's milk
  • Don't keep any pets in the house until the child is at least 4 years old.
  • Always try to encase the child's mattress in the crib in an impermeable cover to limit exposure to dust mites.
  • Wash the Childs bedding once a week in hot water (more than boiling point)
  • Keep the child away from second hand smoke.

Treatment of asthma in a child requires a close strategy between the doctor and the parents. One medication, which a paediatrician is likely to recommend, is an inhalant to be administered through a nebulizer which helps stop the spasms and inflammation during an attack of asthma. A nebulizer is a device, which vaporizes the medicament. The nebulizer is kept in front of the child's face when he starts to wheeze or cough. And the vaporized medicament is breathed in to give relief.

It is very rare for a child to get a severe asthma attack. In most cases the child may not need any medication on a regular basis unless exposed to one of the triggers.

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