What is Asthma?
Asthma is a disease that affects the airways (tubes that carry air into and out of the lungs) and is the most chronic airways disease requiring a good assessment, management and follow up.
Symptoms of Asthma
A child with asthma can experience one or more of the following problems:
- Coughing that occurs more at night or when it is cold
- Wheezing – a whistling noise produced from narrowed airways.
- There may be a feeling of tightness or pain in the chest.
- Difficulty in breathing.
What is an asthma exacerbation?
This is a periodic worsening of Asthma symptoms usually triggered environmental agents or a viral infection. During an exacerbation or flare up, there is narrowing of the airways with increased secretions making it difficult to breath.
Triggers leading to an exacerbation may include smoke, cold or windy weather, viral respiratory infections, strong scents, allergens and intense emotions. If identified for a particular child, these should be avoided where possible.
How can I tell if my child has asthma?
It can be hard to tell if your child has asthma especially if he or she is younger than 5 years. This is because symptoms like cough, chest tightness, wheezing or trouble breathing can occur in illnesses other than asthma. You will need to visit the doctor with your child develops difficulties in breathing.
Is there a test for asthma?
Most of the time the doctor will know that one has asthma from the set of questions and examination findings during a hospital visit.
A simple breathing test called spirometry for the child older than 5 years, can be done to measure how much air one can blow out of the lungs in 1 second. This test may be repeated after the child inhales a medication that opens the airways to see if the breathing improves.
Further testing can be done by the doctor based on the findings of the initial evaluation.
How is asthma treated?
Asthma treatment involves use of two types of medications. Relievers used to open the airways when symptoms are present and controller medications for use in preventing symptoms. Most of these medications are inhalers and require spacer devices to deliver them down the airways.
It is very important that you give your child the medications as prescribed. Asthma that is not treated properly can prevent children from doing normal activities, make the miss school, or even damage the lungs.
What is an asthma action plan?
- An asthma action plan is a written list of instructions agreed between you and the doctor that tell you:
- What medicines to give your child at home and when to give them
- What symptoms to watch out for
- What to do when symptoms are getting worse
- When to visit your healthcare provider or call for help
The plan should be reviewed with your doctor at agreed intervals during follow up to optimize the treatment.