Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the function and lining of the airways or tubes of the lungs. It narrows the airways and makes it difficult to breathe.
There are different degrees of asthma. Some children may have mild asthma with rare flare-ups. Others may have a severe, constant asthma.
Inflamed Bronchial Tube
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The exact causes of asthma are unknown, but genetics play a role.
Tightening of the muscles around the airway and chronic inflammation with swelling cause airways to narrow. This makes it hard to breathe.
Certain conditions are known to trigger an asthma attack. These include:
Factors that may increase your child’s chance of asthma include:
Symptoms may include:
You will be asked about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will listen to your child’s lungs. Your child may be referred to a specialist. A pulmonologist focuses on the lungs. An allergist/immunologist focuses on allergies.
Your child's lungs may be tested. This can be done with:
Your child's oxygen concentration may be measured. This can be done with pulse oximetry.
Images may be taken of your child's bodily structures. This can be done with x-ray.
Talk with the doctor about the best plan for your child. You and your child's doctor should also create an asthma action plan. This is a plan your child will follow to help control asthma, handle asthma attacks, and prevent restrictions on your child's activities. Treatment will vary based on age, symptoms, and the number of asthma episodes your child has. It is important that you stick to your child's treatment plan.
Treatment options include the following:
Exercise may help build lung reserve, so treatment should allow your child to have normal exercise and activity levels, including sports.
You can help your child reduce the chance of triggering an asthma attack by making lifestyle changes, such as:
Medications used to treat asthma fall into one of 2 categories:
Long-term medications are used to avoid asthma attacks, but will not treat an existing attack. Medication may include any combinations of:
Short-term control medications are used to treat an asthma attack. Medication may include:
In addition to the medications, children should get all recommended vaccinations.
There are no known ways to prevent your child from developing asthma. You can encourage your child with asthma to reduce the risk of asthma episodes by following the treatment plan and avoiding triggers. General guidelines include:
Allergy shots may be considered to reduce reactions to allergy triggers.
Your doctor may want to monitor your child at home with a peak flow meter.
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
Asthma Society of Canada
The Lung Association
Asthma in children. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T500326/Asthma-in-children. Updated April 6, 2017. Accessed August 28, 2017.
Asthma: kids. Centers for Disease Control website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ASTHMA/children.htm. Updated April 30, 2013. Accessed August 28, 2017.
Childhood asthma,. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology website. Available at http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/at-a-glance/childhood-asthma.aspx. Accessed August 28, 2017.
What causes asthma? National Heart Lung and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Asthma/Asthma_Causes.html. Updated August 4, 2014. Accessed August 28, 2017.
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10/30/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T500326/Asthma-in-children: Bernard A, Nickmilder M, et al. Impact of chlorinated swimming pool attendance on the respiratory health of adolescents. Pediatrics. 2009;124(4):1110-1118.
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5/4/2012 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T500326/Asthma-in-children: Woodfine L, Neal RD, et al. Enhancing ventilation in homes of children with asthma: pragmatic randomised controlled trial. Br J Gen Pract. 2011;61(592):e724-732.
8/27/2013 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T500326/Asthma-in-children: Kim JM, Lin SY, et al. Allergen-specific immunotherapy for pediatric asthma and rhinoconjunctivitis: a systematic review. Pediatrics. 2013 Jun;131(6):1155-67.
11/2/2015 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T500326/Asthma-in-children: Normansell R, Kew KM, et al. Sublingual immunotherapy for asthma. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Aug 28;8:CD011293.
Last reviewed September 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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