More Kids Are Getting Asthma — Know the Signs

Over 24 million people in the U.S. are living with asthma. And nearly 7 million of those are children, according to WebMD. The prevalence of asthma has steadily increased since the early 1980s. However, the reason for the increase is not known.

Many experts believe environmental factors are the main triggers for asthma attacks. These can include: dust, pet dander, cockroaches, smoke, pollution, mold, exercise, food, or airway infections; to name a few.

Watch for These Symptoms

First, remember that your child may not have all these symptoms. Also, symptoms per asthma episode may vary. WebMD advises to watch for any of the following:

  • A chronic cough (may be the only symptom)
  • Coughing spells. These may especially occur during the night, while playing, or when experiencing strong emotions.
  • Less energy during play
  • Rapid breathing
  • Complaint of chest tightness or chest hurting
  • Wheezing (whistling sound when breathing in or out)
  • Labored breathing
  • Shortness of breath or loss of breath
  • Tightened neck and chest muscles
  • Weakness or tiredness

Diagnosing Asthma

If you suspect your child may have asthma, see a doctor who can perform various tests to make a proper diagnosis. Tests can include: lung function analysis, chest x-ray, evaluation for heartburn, allergy testing, and examination of sinuses. Most Urgent Care clinics can also diagnose and treat asthma.

Treatment Options

Depending on the exact diagnosis and severity of the condition, the doctor may prescribe asthma medications, inhalers, steroids, or other anti-inflammatory drugs. Ask the doctor for an asthma action plan. A good plan lays out the symptoms to watch for and the steps to get breathing under control.

Managing Asthma at School

With the prevalence of asthma on the rise, most schools have many students living with asthma. Often school teachers and the school nurse are familiar with asthma control.

WebMD recommends that you:

  • Talk with the doctor about self-administering medications and equipment. Ask what medicine and equipment to provide the school staff. Also, check with the school’s medication policy.
  • If your child is old enough to understand, talk with him/her about: when to take medicine, how to use the asthma inhaler and peak flow meter, what the number on the peak flow meter means, and what to do if the number is too low.
  • Inform the school staff about managing your child’s asthma including: severity of asthma condition, attack triggers, medications, using the peak flow meter, and what to do in the case of an attack.
  • Give school staff members copies of your child’s asthma action plan. Meet with them to explain the action plan, common triggers, and treatment.
  • Also, make sure they have emergency contact information for the doctor, preferred emergency room, and trusted guardians of the child.

What to Do in an Acute Asthma Attack

If asthma attack symptoms don’t quickly improve after taking medication and following the asthma action plan, call 911 or go to an emergency room.

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