Millions of children in the United States suffer from various chronic diseases. The most common chronic disorder in childhood is asthma. As a reversible obstructive lung disease, asthma is very much manageable. The disease is caused by increased reaction of the airways to numerous stimuli, i.e. exercise, pollen, or cold air. During an asthma attack, the patient’s airway narrow and there is swelling of the lining, tightening of the muscle, and increased secretion of mucus in the airway. It is after this process occurs one hears the wheezing from the lungs. Every child reacts differently to various stimuli, including these:
- Infections and colds of the respiratory tract
- Cigarette smoke
- Animal dander
- Indoor or outdoor air pollutants
- Cold air
- Sudden temperature change
- Secondhand smoke.
The truth is asthma can be life threatening if it is not managed properly. Parents should encourage their children to regularly inform an adult if they feel any onset of symptoms. Regular healthcare is imperative for these children, because as mentioned, asthma is very much reversible. Children should see a physician right away when:
- Coughing that is constant and associated with physical activity
- Wheezing or whistling sounds when a child exhales
- Shortness of breath or rapid breathing
- Child complains of chest tightness
- A child has repetitive episodes of bronchitis or pneumonia.
Causes to childhood asthma can be inherited, airway infections at a young age, or exposure to environmental factors, i.e. cigarette smoke or air pollution. Coped with inappropriately, complications may arise: severe asthma attacks, permanent damage to airway or lungs, missing school, inability to sleep or stay asleep, fatigue, and chronic inability to play sports or physical activities. Generally, asthma is very difficult to diagnose, for which reason it may a diagnosis by elimination. Moreover, there are some co-existing diseases:
- Acid reflux disease – GERD
- Airway abnormalities
- Vocal cord dysfunction
- Respiratory tract infections – RSV.
So a physician may also test for these to rule in or rule out asthma. Children over the age of 6 will be tested with lung function tests (spirometry) at various times depending on their exercise regimen. For children who are younger than 6, it is difficult to prove a diagnosis so a physician may just monitor the child because some children do outgrow asthma.
Treatment plans vary upon the intensity of the child’s disease and what the child and parent can manage:
- Long-term control
- Inhaled corticosteroids
- Leukotriene modifiers
- Combination inhalers
- Quick Relief
- Short-acting beta agonists
- Oral and IV Antibiotics
- Allergy-Induced Asthma
- Allergy medication
- Allergy shots – immunotherapy.
There is an identified asthma plan which can be formulated per individual child. A pediatrician should inform all the necessary parties about a child’s condition. Those residing in Denver should visit the Denver Holistic Center for more information and parents should be made aware of these lifestyle and home remedies:
- Maintain low humidity at home
- Keep indoor air clean
- Reduce pet dander
- Use air conditioner – reduces airborne pollen
- Minimize dust
- Reduce exposure to cold air
- Maintain regular health care
- Exercise is important to help the child build their stamina
- Child should maintain healthy weight.
All these findings combined can successfully help maintain a child’s asthma.