Asthma is a common lung condition that can cause breathing difficulties. It affects people of all ages, but typically the symptoms first start showing in childhood. While it can be easy to mistake it for a respiratory infection at first, asthma affects around 1 in 10 children, with 57% having moderate to severe attacks every year. Luckily, once it’s diagnosed, asthma is relatively easy to manage and treat, though there is no cure. Nearly everyone knows someone who has asthma, so I wanted to go over what it is, what causes it, and how to help a child who is living with asthma.
What Is Asthma?
The causes of asthma are actually pretty simple. The airways become inflamed and more sensitive than usual and when the airways are inflamed, it reacts in 3 ways:
- The muscles around the airways tighten, making them narrower
- The lining of the airways becomes inflamed and swollen, making them narrower
- The airways start to produce more mucus than usual
All of this makes it harder for air to get into and out of the lungs, which is what causes the wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and difficulty in breathing. The reactions are usually mild, but when the symptoms flare up it can cause an ‘asthma attack’. There is no cure, but the symptoms can be easily managed with the help from your GP. Over time, some children will find their symptoms improve or even disappear as they grow up, but others will be managing the condition for life.
Spotting Symptoms in Your Child
Spotting the signs of asthma in children can be very difficult, since a lot of them are subtle, or look like other things. But if your child has one or more of the following, you should take them to the doctor and tell them you suspect asthma.Coughing:
- A cough that won’t go away or keeps coming back
- A recurring cough in the early morning or at night
- A cough after doing exercise or generally being active
- A whistling, wheezing sound when they breathe
- A persistent ‘tummy ache’ (which is a common way for children to describe the tight-chested feeling)
- They may rub their tummy or chest frequently
- Listen for fast breathing, even when resting
- Watch to see if they are using a lot of their body when they breathe – like shrugging their shoulders up and down
These are all clear signs that your child is struggling with asthma. However, if you find that they are:
- Struggling to catch their breath
- Their tummy is sucking in
- Their ribs are sticking out
- Obvious sucking in at the front of their throat
- Not able to finish sentences or eat because they’re so breathless
Then you need to call 999, because they may be having an asthma attack which requires urgent medical treatment. You should also watch out for them acting differently, getting over-tired or going very quiet. Remember, you know your child best and it’s always best to call 999 or if you don’t think it’s urgent then 111.
How Is It Diagnosed?
Asthma can usually be diagnosed by your GP through your child’s symptoms and a few simple tests. They will probably ask your child (or you) what symptoms they have, when and how often they happen, if anything seems to trigger them, and if you have any family history. Depending on the age of the child, they may then suggest doing some tests to confirm asthma. These are usually:
- FeNO test: Your child will breathe into a machine that measures the level of nitric oxide in their breath, which is a sign of inflammation in your lungs.
- Spirometry: Your child will blow into a machine that measures how fast they can breathe out, and how much air they can hold in their lungs.
- Peak Flow Test: They blow into a handheld device that measures how fast they breathe out several times over a few weeks, to measure any changes.
These tests aren’t always easy to do on younger children, so they may give your child an inhaler to see if it helps relieve their symptoms until they are old enough to have the tests.
How Is It Treated?
If your child receives a diagnosis of asthma, you will usually be referred to an asthma nurse who will create a personal action plan with you. This plan will include information about the medicines they can give your child, how to monitor them and what to do if they have an asthma attack. There are a few options for treating asthma, which will depend on how severe the asthma is. The nurse may recommend:
- Inhalers (reliever, preventer or combination)
Living With Asthma
If your child’s asthma is well managed, then they should be able to enjoy life and do everything they want to do without the symptoms getting in the way. This means going to regular reviews with your asthma nurse or GP, making sure medicines are taken on time and keeping a record of your child’s asthma and triggers over time. On top of that, there are a lot of things you can do to manage your child’s asthma and cut their risk of an asthma attack. You can find out more about what those are through Asthma UK – just click here.
If your child suffers from asthma, then you may be constantly worried about them. Asthma attacks can happen at any time and it’s important that your child always has an inhaler or suitable treatment available. This might mean you have to carry spares with you, or give extra treatments to the people taking care of your child.
This is when the Medi-Redi medicine timer comes in handy. This programmable storage device enables you to store inhalers, tablets or injections inside and then all you need to do is hand it over to the teacher, childminder or grandparent. It is child resistant, portable and spacious enough to store several medicines as well as spoons, syringes and instructions.
It clearly shows when the next medicine is due, how much to give and which medicine to give, it also keeps the history which is perfect when you need to keep track of when medicines were last given.
To order yours today, click here.