You notice your child is making a funny wheezing sound when he breathes. Or she has a cough that gets worse at night. Did you know that these may be symptoms of asthma?
About 9 million children in the United States have asthma, which is a chronic disease that affects the airway. Asthma causes the bronchial airways to become inflamed or swollen. When this happens, the airways begin to make more mucus and the muscles tighten, making breathing harder. During an asthma attack, you may notice the following symptoms:
· Wheezing or whistling sounds when breathing out
· Shortness of breath
· Rapid breathing
Infants may make grunting sounds when feeding or have difficulty suckling.
Learn What Triggers Asthma
Asthma can be triggered by many different things. Running or exercise can bring on an asthma attack in about 80 percent of children with the condition. Respiratory infections including colds, flu and bacterial infections can trigger asthma. For children with allergies to pollens, molds, animal dander and food, exposure to the allergen can mean an asthma flare.
Asthma flares also can be brought on if your child is around things that irritate the airways including strong chemical smells and secondhand smoke. If your child has asthma, you should keep them away from people who are smoking. A smokefree house can help improve your child’s overall health and prevent asthma flares.
Dust mites that live in bedding, pillows, soft furniture, carpets and stuffed animals may make a child’s asthma worse. You can help control dust mites by washing bedding in hot water once a week and drying it completely. Use dust covers on pillows and mattresses. Vacuum carpets and soft furniture once a week. For the stuffed toys, try to limit the number of toys and choose toys that can be safely washed and dried.
Researchers have found that exposure to cockroaches and other insects in the home can trigger an asthma flare. You can take steps to eliminate these household pests by keeping the kitchen clean and free of clutter where they can hide. Store food in airtight containers. Use roach baits or traps instead of sprays that also may trigger asthma.
Make a Plan
You should work with your child’s doctor to make a plan for managing your child’s asthma. Talk to the doctor about the different medicines your child needs to take. You should understand the difference between control medicines that need to be taken daily and those that are only used when your child is having an asthma attack (known as rescue medicines).
Your child’s doctor may recommend that you and your child use a peak flow meter. This is a very simple, inexpensive device that measures how much air your lungs expels in one breath. You should know your child’s normal peak flow level. You can then compare the results so that you know when to take action. Usually when the level is 50 to 80 percent of normal (Yellow Zone), you need to be watchful and follow the plan for the beginning of an asthma flare. Your doctor may suggest that if the readings are less than half of normal (Red Zone) that you take immediate action.
If your child has the following symptoms, you should seek immediate medical help:
· Your child’s coloring changes including bluish or gray lips and fingernails.
· Your child can’t talk to you because of difficulty breathing.
· You can see the areas between your child’s ribs or at the base of the neck while breathing in.
· The rescue medications aren’t working after repeated use or the symptoms return after 5 or 10 minutes.
· Your child’s peak flows are in the Red Zone (less than 50 percent of normal).
If your doctor isn’t available, you need to go to the nearest emergency room. When possible use an emergency room that specializes in the care of children. If you do need to go to the emergency room, take a list of medications your child is taking including the dosages. You may want to keep a current list with you in your purse or wallet.