What is asthma?
Asthma is a controllable, chronic, disease that causes breathing problems. During an asthma flare, the muscles that wrap around the airways tighten, the lining of the airways becomes swollen and thick mucus is produced. The swelling, muscle tightening and mucus block the airways making it difficult to breathe.
What causes asthma flares?
Asthma can flare for different reasons. Common triggers for asthma flares include viral infections (such as a cold), pollutants (such as wood smoke), cold air, exercise, sinuys infections, heartburn, and stress or strong emotions. Once we work with you and your child to determine which triggers worsen your child's asthma, we can help, when possible, to find ways to avoid these triggers.
How is asthma treated?
Asthma medications can be divided into two classes. Rescue medications are used to open the airways when symptoms occur. These medications are called bronchodilators ("airway openers"). Common rescue medications include albuterol (Proventil, Ventolin) and levalbuteral (Xopenex). Children who have the mildest form of asthma will require only intermittent use of rescue medications. Children who have more persistent symptoms may also require controller medications. These medications are given daily to decrease or prevent asthma symptoms and flares. Examples of controller medications include inhaled corticosteroids (Flovent, Pulmicort, etc) and leukotriene antagonists (Singulair). It is important to monitor asthma symptoms and use of rescue medication over time to establish the appropriate medication regimen for each child with asthma.
How do I know if my child has asthma?
When children have obvious symptoms of asthma such as recurrent wheezing with a strong family history of asthma and have their symptoms improve/disappear with appropriate medications, the diagnosis is clear. However, many individuals with asthma have more subtle signs including chronic cough (especially at night), recurrent pneumonia or bronchitis, or cough with exercise. We encourage parents to alert the physician to symptoms that may be related to asthma.
If your child has asthma:
Children with asthma are strongly encouraged to receive a flu vaccination yearly as they are at higher risk of having serious complication from influenza infection.
Please bring all asthma medications to each doctor visit so we can effectively optimize your child's treatment plan.
Where can I get more information about asthma?
Organizations that can provide more information on asthma include:
American Lung Association
Allergy and Asthma Network/Mothers of Asthmatics
American Academy of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology
American Academy of Pediatrics