What is asthma?
Asthma is a lung disease that leads to inflammation of the airway and disrupts the flow of oxygen to the lungs. An asthmatic attack can be triggered by exposure to external factors (cold air, pollution), internal stimuli (dust mites, pollen, pet dander, second-hand tobacco smoke) and/or physical exertion. In this article we will cover some asthma symptoms found in young children.
Prevalence of asthma in Australia is high by international standards. As per the National Asthma Council, over 2 million Australians have asthma. About 1 in 10 adults, and about 1 in 9 or 10 children have asthma.
Asthma is a leading chronic illness among young children. Asthma can begin at any age, but most children start showing symptoms around the age of 5 years. In the age group of 0-14 years, asthma is more common in boys than girls.
The first step to controlling asthma is diagnosing the problem. Your child may be suffering from asthma if he/she displays the following symptoms:
1. Frequent coughing at various times of the day. In some children, chronic coughing may be the only symptom. This is known as cough-variant asthma.
2. Wheezing or a whistling sound when breathing out.
3. Rapid and difficult breathing
4. Your child gets easily tired during play and needs frequent breaks to catch breath.
5. Child complains that the chest hurts while breathing.
6. The above-mentioned breathing symptoms accompanied by loss of appetite, frequent headaches, and dark circles under the eyes.
7. Your child has recurring respiratory infections that linger for weeks, while other children tend to recover a lot faster.
8. The breathing problems start when there is a change of season, or when your child is exposed to pollutants like tobacco smoke.
While these are probable symptoms that your child has asthma, the only way to confirm this is through a clinical diagnosis. Typically, tests to detect asthma (spirometry and exhaled nitric oxide test) are conducted only once the child is around 5 years of age. Prior to that age, children are diagnosed basis display of symptoms and genetic history of asthma and allergies.
While genetic predisposition is a key cause, environmental factors such as exposure to allergens, lifestyle, diet, and infection also have an important bearing on your child’s likelihood of developing asthma. Several studies have concluded that a family history of asthma coupled with presence of allergic conditions, increases chances of developing asthma.
Asthma Prevention at Home
Though asthma is incurable, it is controllable. Treatment for asthma in children focuses on minimizing the risk of future exacerbations, developing lung function, and limiting the amount of medication.
You can reduce the risk of an asthma attack whilst your child is at home by taking the following asthma management steps:
5. Use non-toxic dish and laundry liquids
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Photo credit: David Castillo Dominici, freedigitalphotos.net