Asthma in Children

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Asthma is one of the most common childhood chronic illnesses. It is also the most frequent cause of children's hospitalization. It can begin at any age, but most children have their first symptoms by the age of five. It affects as many as 10%-12% of children in the U.S. There is a steady rise in the incidence of asthma amongst children.


Why should I be aware of this?

When a child suffers from repeated episodes of cough and wheezing, he might be suffering from asthma. In such instances a high pitched sound is heard each time the child exhales out air. Generally, there must be more than three episodes before a label of asthma is given.

The seriousness of asthma in children is illustrated by the fact that asthma accounts for more hospitalizations in children than any other chronic illness. As might be expected asthma also accounts for more school absences than any other chronic illness.

Seeing your child dealing with asthma can be very distressing. You need to be aware about asthma in children. You also need to have the right attitude to help both the child and the other family members.

All about children with asthma

Asthma is very common among children, teens and adults. It is a disease that causes the airways of the lungs to tighten.

An asthma attack occurs when the lungs are not getting enough air to breathe. Your child might be having an asthma attack if he or she has:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Chest pain
  • Chest tightness

The severity of asthma symptoms differ from child to child – from mild to severe. However, the narrowing of the airways is usually reversible, either naturally or by using medicines.

Common triggers

Asthma triggers are factors that start asthma symptoms or an asthma attack. These include

  • Infections-- Usually virus infections like colds or flu
  • Weather change -- Changes in the weather like the onset of a cold spell can also be a trigger.
  • Smoking – Second hand smoke is a strong trigger. The parents of asthmatic children should avoid smoking.
  • Allergens-- Allergens from house dust mites, pets or pollen play and exercise, especially in cold weather.
  • Emotions -- Strong emotions such as excitement, fear or anger can also trigger an attack.
  • Food allergies -- Allergies to a particular food items may also act as triggers.
  • Medications – Some children may be allergic to some drugs (e.g. aspirin).
  • Irritants -- Many irritating particles or chemicals in the air can trigger an asthma attack. Examples include:
    • Cigarette smoke
    • Sulphur dioxide
    • Household sprays
    • Perfume or other strong scents
    • Diesel exhaust
    • Grain or flour dust
    • Sawdust

Relief and prevention

There is no cure for asthma. But, there are treatments which can usually successfully manage the condition. The treatment of asthma is based on two important goals:

  1. Relief of symptoms -- These reverse the symptoms of cough, breathing difficulty and wheeze quickly.
  2. Preventing future symptoms developing -- Preventive medicines are those that reduce the chances of recurrent episodes, thereby improving the quality of life of the child.

Some of these medicines can be given by inhalation only (as inhalers or by nebulizers), while others are given by mouth (as tablets or syrups) or as injections.

Inhalers deposit the medicine directly into the air passages and only very small (micro) quantities of the medicine actually go into the body. This way the side effects are minimised . The effect is almost instantaneous as the medicine goes to the site of the disease directly.


Some parents mistakenly think that asthma is an intermittent rather than chronic condition. Two days of symptoms per week is adequate control. They feel that medication use is necessary only when their child has symptoms or not at all. Daily medication use is recommended for children with persistent asthma.[1]

90 degrees - What we do not know?

  • No one really knows why more and more children are developing asthma.
    • Some experts suggest that children are being exposed to more and more allergens such as dust, air pollution, and second-hand smoke.
    • It is also suspected that children are not exposed to enough childhood illnesses to build up their immune system.
    • It is also believed that decreasing rates of breast feeding have prevented important substances of the immune system from being passed on to babies.
  • In the first effort of its kind in the United States, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco have launched a study to determine whether giving active probiotic supplements to infants can delay or prevent asthma in children.[2] It is still not known for sure if probiotics can play a preventive role.
  • Pregnant women with asthma who eat oily fish, such as salmon or trout, may help protect their children against developing asthma, according to a study presented at the American Thoracic Society International Conference in Orlando on May 25. The study also found that children whose mother ate fish sticks during pregnancy may be at increased risk of developing asthma. The study found that children whose mothers ate fish sticks during pregnancy were twice as likely to develop asthma, whether or not their mothers had asthma themselves. “Fish sticks are deep-fried, and they contain omega-6 fatty acids, which encourage inflammation of the airways.[3]


  • Research shows that close proximity to vehicular traffic-related emissions, either at home or at school, can lead to chronic effects in the respiratory health of children with asthma.[4]
  • Findings suggest that parents' expectations and perceptions are key factors influencing how well their children's asthma is controlled, and how effectively.[1]
  • Families with asthmatic children not only report higher incidences of ADHD, but also of depression, anxiety and learning disabilities. [5]
  • Fat children are at greater risk of asthma than children of normal weight, finds a study. [6]
  • Study suggests that children with steroid-resistant asthma are more likely to be African-American, to have required treatment with oral steroids at an earlier age and to require larger amounts of oral steroids for only marginal control of their asthma.[7]


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  • Asthma in Children
  • Asthma in Children


  1. 1.0 1.1 Children's Asthma Affected By Parental Expectations:ScienceDaily
  2. Can Probiotics Prevent Asthma In Children?ScienceDaily
  3. Eating Some Types Of Fish During Pregnancy May Protect Baby From Future Asthma:ScienceDaily
  4. Heavy Traffic Makes Breathing A Burden In Children:ScienceDaily
  5. Children With Asthma Often Suffer Developmental And Behavioral Problems:ScienceDaily
  6. Obese Children More Prone To Asthma:ScienceDaily
  7. Black Teens With Severe Asthma Are Three Times More Likely Than White Teens To Be Steroid Resistant:ScienceDaily