What is asthma?


Asthma is blockage of the airway due to mucus, inflammation, and more response to debris than the average lung. It can be reversed. Many infants who wheeze usually stop by the time they are 6 years old while others will continue to wheeze into adolescence and/or adulthood.


What are the risks which increase the chance of asthma?


Your child has an increased chance of asthma if parents, siblings, or relatives have a history of asthma. Your child’s chances are also increased if they have allergies or eczema.


What are the signs and symptoms of asthma?


Signs and symptoms of asthma include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, pulling at ribs, trouble sleeping due to coughing or wheezing, cannot do usual activities, or difficulty walking and talking from breathing problems.


What are triggers?


One trigger that your child can have is exercise. When exercise causes asthma symptoms, it is called exercise-induced asthma. Other triggers include mold, cockroaches, rodents, fireplace, carpet, stuffed animals, pets, cigarette smoke, air pollution, strong odors, weather, colds/flu, pollen, and foods. Common foods which may trigger your child’s asthma if he or she is allergic to them include peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, cow’s milk, eggs, and wheat. There is a difference between being allergic and being intolerant to foods. Therefore, you should always consult your physician before determining if your child is allergic or intolerant to a food.


What are controller medicines?


Controller medicines are medicines your child takes to keep his or her asthma controlled. These medicines help decrease the chance of your child wheezing, frequently coughing, or presenting with any of the signs or symptoms listed above. These medicines are typically taken daily and regardless of your child having symptoms or not.

These medicines include inhaled steroids like pulmicort and flovent and anti inflammatory medicines like singulair and other medicines which may target your child’s allergies and therefore control their asthma symptoms as well.


What are rescue medicines?


The main rescue medicine used by parents and doctors is albuterol. There are other medicines which are only used in hospitals by trained doctors. Albuterol helps to stop the symptoms listed above when your child has them. It relaxes the muscles in your child’s airway to keep his or her airway open and therefore making it easier for your child to breath. This medicine should be given when your child is experiencing any of the signs and symptoms listed above as directed by your doctor. If you are giving your child this medicine regularly or on a daily basis, you should consult your doctor because your child’s asthma is not likely well controlled. Other names for albuterol include Pro-Air, Ventolin, etc.


What are the different methods to give medicine?


The medicines can be given as a pill, like Singulair. Some medicines can be given by a nebulizer machine which turns liquid asthma medicine into a mist for your child to inhale through a face mask and usually takes about 20 minutes for your child to receive all of the medicine. Most medicines are given through an inhaler which allows your child to press on the medicine as it comes out and is inhaled. This method is usually easier for older children and takes less time. A spacer which attaches to the inhaler should always be used with the inhaler to ensure the medicine gets to the lungs.


What is an action plan?


An action plan tells you or any caregiver to the child what to do if your child is or isn’t having the symptoms listed above. It is divided into zones with the green zone for medicines to take daily, the yellow zone for medicines to take when your child begins to have any of the signs or symptoms listed above, and the red zone which is when your child is having more difficulty and seems to be having an attack.


How does your doctor decide the best plan for your child?


Your doctor may assess how well your child is doing by doing a spirometry test. This test has your child blow into a tube and gives numbers to determine how well your child blows before and after albuterol is given. These numbers give good information as to how much your child’s lungs are or aren’t blocked. Your doctor will also take a good history to determine how frequently your child needs his or her rescue medicine, the symptoms your child is having especially at night, triggers for your child’s asthma, how well your child tolerates exercise, and any additional information he or she may need about your child’s asthma. This information helps your doctor determine if your child needs a controller medicine, steroids to be taken by mouth, or to go up or down on the dosage of the controller medicine. You may find that your child needs more medicine at certain times of the year due to weather triggers.


All questions or concerns should be discussed with your doctor, and your child should follow-up with his or her doctor on a regular basis, determined by your doctor, to assess your child’s asthma.