Common Breathing Problems
What Is Asthma?
Asthma is the most common chronic lung disease of childhood. More and more children are diagnosed with asthma every year. Asthma is characterized by swelling of the airways in the lungs. When the airways are swollen, there is less room for air to move through the lungs. This makes it harder to move air in and out of the lungs. Symptoms of asthma include wheezing, a frequent dry cough and sometimes, difficulty breathing.
How do I know if my child has asthma?
Children who have asthma often have a frequent cough with colds that lasts long after the cold has gone away. The frequent cough might occur with exercise, at night or with laughing. The child might also have wheezing - a dry or whistle sound with breathing. Some children will have a tight feeling in their chest or shortness of breath if they are having problems with asthma.
If your child is old enough (usually over age 4 or 5 years), he or she might do a pulmonary function test at the doctor or asthma specialist's office. This type of test measures how the lungs are working and if air is flowing easily through the lungs. Pulmonary function tests are an excellent way to monitor asthma over months to years.
What makes asthma worse?
We call things that make asthma worse "triggers". Though not every child has the same asthma triggers, some triggers are quite common. Common asthma triggers are colds, exercise, exposure to cigarette smoke and allergies. Not everyone with asthma has allergies and not everyone with allergies has asthma, but many children have both asthma and allergies. Other asthma triggers include strong smells like perfume or cleaning products, weather changes and getting upset or laughing hard.
Will my child outgrow asthma?
Some babies wheeze with viral respiratory illnesses or colds. Often these babies or toddlers are diagnosed with asthma if the wheezing happens frequently. As these babies grow older and their airways get bigger, they may stop wheezing with respiratory viruses and may be said to have "outgrown" their asthma.
Is there a cure for asthma?
Asthma can not be cured, but it can be well controlled with good medical management and home care. Even though asthma is a chronic illness, it should not interfere with a child's participation in sports, attendance at school or choice of a career.