Seema and Ravi had taken their son Aarav, 3 to a hill station for the weekend and since it was their first family vacation they were pretty happy. However the day they reached the hill station, Aarav had difficulty breathing, he was taken shallow breaths and started wheezing at night. Finally when shown to the doctor who just wrote it off as a cold and gave respiratory medicines. Aarav’s condition became worse in the night and Seema and Ravi decided to head back to Mumbai and have him examined again. After a number of tests, Doctor stated that Aarav may suffer from Asthma. Ravi and Seema were shocked; they were like most parents in denial about their son’s condition. They felt that most of the time he had no difficulty in breathing and he was as normal as any boy of his age.
It was difficult for them to hear about that their son had a lifelong disease but Asthma is quite common in kids, it is said that 2 in 10 kids suffers from Asthma. If treated properly kids with Asthma can live a healthy life.
However Asthma is not diagnosed as that easily. The reason being that kids under the age of 5 commonly suffer from wheezing and most of the time it is not due to asthma. Another reason is that the spirometry test that has to be taken to ascertain asthma cannot be performed by kids under 5. Asthma can be caused due to variety of reasons and only confirmed through tests.
Here are some of the symptoms that may signal Asthma-
- Frequent bouts of coughing especially during play, at night, or laughing.
- Rapid breathing
- Wheezing sound like whistling when breathing
- Difficulty breathing with chest moving rapidly
- Feeling of tightness in the chest
- Frequent feeling of tiredness
Risk factors for Asthma
- Air allergies- Children with other allergies have more chance of having asthma.
- Family history- Those with a family member suffering from Asthma are likely to suffer from Asthma too.
How to detect Asthma?
Since the symptoms of asthma aren’t the same for everyone and can be due to other diseases too. The doctor therefore will ask you various questions about your family history, allergy history, about the frequency and kind of symptoms and order some X rays and tests before confirming Asthma.
A spirometer is given to the child to blow air in; the child then is given the medication and asked to blow again in the spirometer, if there is an improvement in his breathing capacity it signals towards asthma. Other tests like x ray to confirm asthma.
If your child does have asthma, he or she will need you to tell him why he needs to keep the inhaler with him all the time and why he has a coughing bout, so here is all you want to know about asthma and its treatment so that you can take care of your child in the best possible way.
What is Asthma?
When we breathe through our nose or mouth, the air travels through the windpipe to the lungs and then to the airways which branch out in the lungs. In normal circumstances, the air ways remain open and unblocked resulting into unrestricted air flow. In case of Asthma flare up or Asthma attack, the airways become swollen or inflamed or produce excess of mucus which blocks the air flow. Since the person does not get enough air in and hence has to finds it difficult to breathe, feel tightness in the chest and will cough and wheeze.
An asthma attack may last from few minutes to few hours but once the attack is over, the airways come back to their normal shape though it takes time.
Now, let’s get into what may trigger an asthma attack
- Dust- the dust mites inside the dust when inhaled cause asthmatic reaction
- Animal hair- Dander a kind of dandruff in animals causes reaction
- Chalk dust
Sometimes infections can also cause asthma flare up, during flu or cold, the airways in the lungs may become extra sensitive which may lead to attack.
Exercise is one of the common triggers for asthma. 90% of children have exercise induced asthma where indulging in a physical activity leads to asthmatic flare up. Doctors then recommend using medication minutes prior to the activity. Asthmatic children are sometimes told to stay away from endurance sports and start from walking, swimming and then build strength before playing more strenuous sports.
How to live with Asthma?
- Action plan: Doctors will study your child’s symptoms and the severity of asthma and will recommend a plan for him. This plan will describe what precautions to take, when to take the medication, what to do in case of an attack and emergency care. This action plan is your guide to take care of your child, clarify all the doubts regarding the plan make sure that you follow it. This plan is the key to keep your child healthy.
Controller medications: These are the medication that the doctor will recommend that your child takes every day. Older children may have problem taking these in front of their peers so you must make a schedule and have them take it in the morning or in the afternoon. These medications are work towards keeping the airway open all the time so it is essential that your child takes it.
Inhalers: These are the emergency medication that should be inhaled during asthma attack. The doctor recommends an inhaler with a spacer which should be kept with the child all the time and he or she needs to learn how to use it properly.
Around the house: Since asthma can be triggered by allergens in the house, keep the house clean away from dust and mould. Generally avoid having pets in the house and keep them away from smoke.
Keep your child away from cigarette smoke and try to minimize his exposure to air pollution.
Colds and Flu can worsen asthma so prevent these. Also cold and dry air can lead to asthma attack so keep him or her inside during such weather.
It could be difficult to imagine your child suffering from asthma but proper medication and adherence to the action plan will ensure that your child will be happy and running, with or without asthma.