Asthma is a major concern for children and infants. Roughly 7 million kids in the United States are afflicted with asthma, which can manifest at any age, though most children show symptoms before their sixth year of age. The ailment is increasing at an alarming rate, and doctors are as yet at a loss to explain why. We do know that risk factors include allergies, eczema, respiratory infections, low birth weight, tobacco exposure, and even race and income.
Here are some things to look for so you can be aware if your child may have asthma. Early detection is key to effectively treating the illness, which can be progressive.
Symptoms of Asthma
There are many potential indicators of the condition, and not all children will present the same symptoms. In fact, the signs of the condition can manifest differently with each episode. Keep an eye out for the following indicators:
- Coughing spells, whether they occur during play, while laughing or crying, or at night. Be particularly aware of coughing spells if they are frequent in nature.
- Chronic coughing that never seems to go away—this can be the only symptom.
- Reduced energy during play or general lethargy.
- Your child is complaining of feeling weak or tired, or showing other signs of fatigue.
- Your child complains of tightness or pain in their chest.
- Tightening of the muscles in the neck or chest.
- Labored breathing indicated by continual up-down movements of the chest, called retractions. These movements may resemble the motions of a see-saw.
- Intermittent or regular episodes of rapid breathing.
- Wheezing sounds while breathing.
- Loss or shortness of breath.
It should be noted that while these are common symptoms of the condition, there are other symptoms that can present. Any time your child displays unusual breath-related issues, you should consult your pediatrician. Your doctor needs to evaluate any ailment that results in problems breathing for your child.
It may be that your child has a chronic but treatable condition like bronchiolitis or reactive airways disease which responds to asthma medications but may not be asthma. Only your doctor can perform tests to confirm whether your kid is truly affected by asthma. These tests, including chest x-rays and a basic lung test called a spirometry, may not be performed until your child is at least six years of age.
Treating Asthma in Children
If your child is diagnosed with asthma, he or she will likely be prescribed medications and placed on an activity plan that involves watching for daily symptoms and avoiding triggers. The use of medication is key to controlling the condition, and children with the illness should avoid any source of smoke.
Your doctor will work with you to develop a plan of action to address the condition and will provide you a written copy of this plan. The document will also advise you on applying medication and how to seek emergency help should problems arise.
Do you have any stories about childhood asthma? Let us know; we would love to hear your experiences.