What is Asthma
What causes childhood asthma?
Researchers continue to learn what causes asthma. It is not entirely understood. The
following things play a part:
Genetics. Asthma runs in families.
Allergies. Some allergies are more common in people with asthma. And, allergies also
tend to run in families.
Respiratory infections. Infants and young children who have some respiratory infections
are more likely to have long-term lung problems.
Environmental factors. Irritants, like pollution and allergens, are known to cause asthma.
What causes asthma symptoms to worsen (flare-ups)?
Triggers are those things that cause asthma symptoms to get worse or asthma flare-ups. Each child has different triggers. A very important part of asthma management is identifying
and then trying to avoid triggers. Asthma triggers include:
Allergens, such as pollen, dust, and pets
Upper respiratory infections, such as colds or the flu.
Inhaled irritants, such as secondhand smoke.
Certain weather conditions, such as cold air.
Exercise or physical activity.
Emotion, such as crying, laughing, or yelling.
Do children outgrow asthma?
How asthma will affect a child throughout his or her lifetime varies.
Many infants and toddlers may wheeze when sick with a viral illness, such as cold
or flu. However, most of these children don't get asthma later in life.
Some children with persistent wheezing and asthma get better during the teenage years.
About half of the children who have asthma at a young age appear to "outgrow" it,
although asthma symptoms may reappear later in life.
If my child has asthma, can he or she participate in sports and activities?
Exercise, such as long-distance running, may trigger a flare-up in many children with
asthma. However, with proper management, a child with asthma can fully participate
in most sports. Aerobic exercise actually improves airway function by strengthening
breathing muscles. Some tips for exercising with asthma include the following:
Teach your child to breathe through the nose and not the mouth to warm and humidify
the air before it enters the airways.
During cold weather, have your child wear a scarf over his or her mouth and nose to
warm inhaled air.
Give your child asthma medicine before exercising, as recommended by your child's
healthcare provider. If your child is not already on controller medicine and he or
she exercises daily, the provider may recommend daily controller medicine.
Have your child carry his or her quick-relief inhaler medicine.
Asthma and school
Some children with asthma may need to take their medicines during school hours. It's
important that you and your child work with his or her healthcare provider and school
staff to meet the child's asthma treatment goals. Laws about students carrying rescue
inhalers vary by state. Make sure you understand the laws and that your child knows
when and how to use their inhaler. For the best asthma care for your child at school,
the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology recommends the following:
Meet with teachers and other relevant school staff to inform them about your child's
condition, special needs, and asthma management plan.
Educate school personnel on your child's asthma medicines and how to help during an
Ask school staff to treat your child as normal as possible when the asthma is under
Before starting a physical education class or a team sport, make sure the teacher
or coach understands that exercise can trigger asthma symptoms.
Talk with teachers and school administrators about indoor air quality, allergens,
and irritants in the school.
Ensure your child's emotional well-being by reassuring that asthma doesn't have to
slow him or her down or make him or her different from other children.
Control of asthma through the years
Be honest with your child about asthma. Remember, as your child grows, that independence
is an important goal. Children with asthma don't want to be different, yet they need
guidance and supervision.
Toddlers. This age group relies completely on the parents. These children understand
little about asthma. The most important factor with this age group is to try to make
medication time a fun one, while stressing the importance of taking the medications.
Let the children assist in any way possible.
School-age. These children have an increased ability to understand asthma. They should
be taught about their medicines and how to avoid their triggers. They should begin
to monitor their own symptoms.
Adolescents. Often, adolescents resist taking chronic medicines, don't like restrictions,
and don't want to be different. Involve adolescents in every aspect of asthma management. They
should help with goal setting and help decide which medicines work best. An asthma
care "contract" can be used. It should allow for self-care while allowing overall
Having asthma doesn't mean having less fun than other adolescents. It is important
for your adolescent to tell his or her friends about his or her triggers.
Always consult your child's provider if you or your child has questions or concerns.
Online Medical Reviewers:
- Adler, Liora, C., MD
- Bass, Pat F., III, MD, MPH
- Images Reviewed by Staywell medical art team.