What is Asthma? It is a chronic
disease with episodic symptoms caused by tightening of the airways
of the lungs.
What causes asthma? People
with asthma have sensitive airways which become narrow as a result
of some “trigger” This makes breathing difficult.
The tendency is known to run in families. Asthma may also occur
in children without any family history of asthma.
What are the main symptoms of asthma?
The main symptoms are- recurrent attacks of breathlessness, wheeze,
cough, tightening of the chest or recurrent pneumonia. All children
with asthma do not wheeze.
What can be done to confirm that
my child has asthma? Asthma is diagnosed by clinical evaluation.
The doctor puts together all the information from listening to
you and examining your child. Asthma being episodic there may
be no signs at the time of evaluation by your doctor. Often relief
with a trial of bronchodilators helps to confirm the diagnosis.
There is no test, which can make a certain diagnosis of asthma.
Investigations are done to rule out conditions that may mimic
What causes asthma attacks?
Things that cause asthma attacks are called triggers. Some well
known triggers are mould, dust mites, smoke, cockroaches, cats
and dogs fur, air pollution like pollen, certain foods, cold drinks,
respiratory infections, emotional upsets, changes in weather and
Can asthma be cured? Asthma
cannot be cured, but can be effectively controlled with medicine.
Repeat attacks are common.
Why should inhalers be used in asthma?
Asthma medicines are best inhaled rather than taken by mouth or
as an injection. Inhaled medicines go straight to lungs and give
quick relief while using very small doses. They also have fewer
side effects as very little medicine reaches other parts of the
There are different types of inhaler devices for use by children
of different ages. Your doctor is the best judge of which device
and medicine will work best for your child. The commonest cause
of treatment failure is incorrect use of inhalers
What are the medicines used as inhalers?
There are 2 groups of medicines used in asthma-preventers and
relievers. Relievers provide immediate relief during an acute
attack but only for a short duration (4-6 hrs). They do not prevent
recurrence of symptoms. They should be taken only during an acute
attack and not on a daily basis.
Preventors are used for certain grades of asthma to prevent frequent
recurrence of symptoms but they do not relieve an acute attack.
Once started it takes 4 – 8 weeks to note an improvement
in the frequency of occurrence of symptoms. It is important to
continue to take this medicine even when there are no symptoms
to prevent swelling in the airways.
Can medication have any harmful effect?
All medication prescribed in asthma have been tested very carefully
for safety. When taken as an inhaled medicine the dose used is
very small and very little reaches other parts of the body and
this minimizes the chances of side effects.
What happens if my child’s asthma
is not adequately controlled? Poorly controlled asthma
leads to poor growth, loss of school days, poor quality of life
and possible permanent loss in lung function. The shape of the
chest may also get permanently deformed.
How does one recognize an acute attack?
The symptoms of an acute attack are breathlessness, wheezing,
tightness of the chest and coughing
What should I do when my child has
an acute attack? Your doctor will give you an Asthma Action
plan. Take the reliever medication as an inhaler as prescribed
in your asthma action plan. If this does not help, repeat the
inhaler one more time after waiting for the number of minutes
recommended by your doctor. If the second try doesn't work, check
to see whether the inhaler is empty. It's empty if it floats in
a bowl of water. If medicine fails to improve your breathing,
you must be treated in the emergency department.
What can I do to prevent my child getting
Always take your preventor medicine
as directed by your doctor. If you feel it is not helping, call
your doctor. Also note what is around your child when it occurs.
Try to avoid pollen, dust, animals,
molds, smoke, and anything else that could cause an attack.
Keep the amount of dust in your home
at a minimum.
Replace your child’s pillows
or mattress with materials that don't cause allergies. Look
for bedding that is made of ""urethane'' or foam rubber
and is labeled ""nonallergenic.''
Teach your child to relax since stress
and emotional upsets can trigger
Should I restrict the physical activities
of my child? Absolutely not. It is good to have him exercise
daily. It helps make the heart stronger and keeps the child healthy.
If the exercise make the child breathless check with your doctor.
Does my child need a special diet?
If you notice that a certain type of food brings on an attack,
avoid it. It is also a good idea to allow food from the refrigerator
to warm up to room temperature before consumption. Otherwise there
are no specific restrictions.
Points to remember
Excess weight can make the heart and
lungs work harder. Keep the child’s weight in the normal
Keep the medicines and spacers with
you wherever you go.
Gargling after using an inhaler is helpful
if there is a burning sensation after use.
Some medication like Ibuprofen and
Aspirin can worsen the symptoms and are better avoided
You may also need to avoid tartrazine
(yellow food dye #5), which is found in a number of soft drinks,
cake mixes and candies
You child is not contagious. That means
no one can "catch" asthma from him.
Asthma has nothing to do with being
strong or weak.