What Exactly is Asthma?

What Exactly is Asthma?

What Exactly is Asthma?

Did you know that in the United States, nearly 26 million people have asthma? More than 7 million of those diagnosed are children. 

Why? In asthmaleaving site icon the lungs and airways become easily inflamed and can swell and narrow. Children have smaller airways than adults, making it harder for air to get through during an asthma attack, making asthma especially serious for them. When children are exposed to certain triggers (such as inhaled airborne pollen, cigarette smoke, or other respiratory cold infections), asthma can cause cough and difficulty breathing symptoms that interrupts play, sports, school and even sleep.

Do adults and children have the same kind of asthma?

Childhood asthma is the same disease as adult asthma, but children have different, sometimes more severe challenges because of their developing lungs and smaller airways explained above. As a result, asthma in children is a leading cause leaving site icon of emergency room visits, hospitalizations and missed school days. Also, parents have to leave work to take care of a sick child. The financial strain leaving site icon that asthma can have on school-age children, families and society is quite large. The Enhancing Care for Children with Asthma project is working to join public health efforts to help children with asthma. Childhood asthma can't be cured, but as a chronic disease, it can be managed, and for many, asthma symptoms often continue into adulthood. 

How Do I Know What Asthma Triggers to Avoid?

Children with asthma may experience wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and trouble breathing,. Many things can bring on an asthma attack, including:

  • Weather - cold air, changes in weather
  • Exercise - high-intensity movement
  • Infections - flu, common cold
  • Allergens - mold, pollen, animals
  • Irritants - cigarette smoke, air pollution

With the right treatment, you and your child can keep symptoms under control and prevent damage to growing lungs. Asthma is generally treated with two medicines: daily long-term control (i.e. ‘controller’) medicines to prevent symptoms, and quick-relief medicines to temporarily help with asthma attacks or flare-ups. 

When your child has asthma, the condition is always there, even when things are going fine. However, symptoms can flare up at any time, or, medicine might not work as well as before. When asthma symptoms get worse than usual, it becomes an asthma attack. It may be that your child has to use quick-relief medicine every day to stop asthma attacks. This can mean the asthma is getting worse. Don’t wait! Speak up if this happens. Talk to your child’s doctor to see if you need to change the treatment. Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to reduce the chance of this happening. By avoiding asthma triggers, monitoring for asthma symptoms, and following an Asthma Action Plan, most kids with asthma can do all the enjoyable things they want to do. Your child will feel better — and have more fun — when their asthma is controlled. 

To learn more about Asthma and the Taking on Asthma initiative, visit our website.

Sources: The Impact of Asthma, leaving site icon American Lung Association 2019; Asthma in Children, leaving site icon MedlinePlus 2019; Direct and indirect costs of asthma in school-age children, leaving site icon National Library of Medicine 2005; 

Originally published: June 6, 2016