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Condition

Asthma in Children

Symptoms, Doctors, Treatments, Research & More

Condition 101

What is the definition of Asthma in Children?

Asthma is a disease that causes the airways to swell and get narrow. It leads to wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing.

What are the alternative names for Asthma in Children?

Pediatric asthma; Asthma - pediatric; Wheezing - asthma - children

What are the causes for Asthma in Children?

Asthma is caused by swelling (inflammation) in the airways. During an asthma attack, the muscles surrounding the airways tighten. The lining of the air passages swells. As a result, less air is able to pass through.

Asthma is often seen in children. It is a leading cause of missed school days and hospital visits for children. An allergic reaction is a key part of asthma in children. Asthma and allergies often occur together.

In children who have sensitive airways, asthma symptoms can be triggered by breathing in substances called allergens, or triggers.

Common asthma triggers include:

  • Animals (hair or dander)
  • Dust, mold, and pollen
  • Aspirin and other medicines
  • Changes in weather (most often cold weather)
  • Chemicals in the air or in food
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Exercise
  • Strong emotions
  • Viral infections, such as the common cold

What are the symptoms for Asthma in Children?

Breathing problems are common. They can include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling out of breath
  • Gasping for air
  • Trouble breathing out (exhaling)
  • Breathing faster than normal

When the child is having a hard time breathing, the skin of the chest and neck may suck inward.

Other symptoms of asthma in children include:

  • Coughing that sometimes wakes the child up at night (it may be the only symptom).
  • Dark bags under the eyes.
  • Feeling tired.
  • Irritability.
  • Tightness in the chest.
  • A whistling sound made when breathing (wheezing). You may notice it more when the child breathes out.

Your child's asthma symptoms may vary. Symptoms may appear often or develop only when triggers are present. Some children are more likely to have asthma symptoms at night.

What are the current treatments for Asthma in Children?

You and your child's providers should work together as a team to create and carry out an asthma action plan.

This plan will tell you how to:

  • Avoid asthma triggers
  • Monitor symptoms
  • Measure peak flow
  • Take medicines

The plan should also tell you when to call the provider. It is important to know what questions to ask your child's provider.

Children with asthma need a lot of support at school.

  • Give the school staff your asthma action plan so they know how to take care of your child's asthma.
  • Find out how to let your child take medicine during school hours. (You may need to sign a consent form.)
  • Having asthma does not mean your child cannot exercise. Coaches, gym teachers, and your child should know what to do if your child has asthma symptoms caused by exercise.

ASTHMA MEDICINES

There are two basic kinds of medicine used to treat asthma.

Long-term control drugs are taken every day to prevent asthma symptoms. Your child should take these medicines even if no symptoms are present. Some children may need more than one long-term control medicine.

Types of long-term control medicines include:

  • Inhaled steroids (these are usually the first choice of treatment)
  • Long-acting bronchodilators (these are almost always used with inhaled steroids)
  • Leukotriene inhibitors
  • Cromolyn sodium

Quick relief or rescue asthma drugs work fast to control asthma symptoms. Children take them when they are coughing, wheezing, having trouble breathing, or having an asthma attack.

Some of your child's asthma medicines can be taken using an inhaler.

  • Children who use an inhaler should use a spacer device. This helps them get the medicine into the lungs properly.
  • If your child uses the inhaler the wrong way, less medicine gets into the lungs. Have your provider show your child how to correctly use an inhaler.
  • Younger children can use a nebulizer instead of an inhaler to take their medicine. A nebulizer turns asthma medicine into a mist.

GETTING RID OF TRIGGERS

It is important to know your child's asthma triggers. Avoiding them is the first step toward helping your child feel better.

Keep pets outdoors, or at least away from the child's bedroom.

No one should smoke in a house or around a child with asthma.

  • Getting rid of tobacco smoke in the home is the single most important thing a family can do to help a child with asthma.
  • Smoking outside the house is not enough. Family members and visitors who smoke carry the smoke inside on their clothes and hair. This can trigger asthma symptoms.
  • DO NOT use indoor fireplaces.

Keep the house clean. Keep food in containers and out of bedrooms. This helps reduce the possibility of cockroaches, which can trigger asthma attacks. Cleaning products in the home should be unscented.

MONITOR YOUR CHILD'S ASTHMA

Checking peak flow is one of the best ways to control asthma. It can help you keep your child's asthma from getting worse. Asthma attacks usually DO NOT happen without warning.

Children under age 5 may not be able to use a peak flow meter well enough for it to be helpful. However, a child should start using the peak flow meter at a young age to get used to it. An adult should always watch for a child's asthma symptoms.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Asthma in Children?

With proper treatment, most children with asthma can live a normal life. When asthma is not well controlled, it can lead to missed school, problems playing sports, missed work for parents, and many visits to the provider's office and emergency room.

Asthma symptoms often lessen or go away completely as the child gets older. Asthma that is not well controlled can lead to lasting lung problems.

In rare cases, asthma is a life-threatening disease. Families need to work closely with their providers to develop a plan to care for a child with asthma.

When should I contact a medical professional for Asthma in Children?

Call your child's provider if you think your child has new symptoms of asthma. If your child has been diagnosed with asthma, call the provider:

  • After an emergency room visit
  • When peak flow numbers have been getting lower
  • When symptoms get more frequent and more severe, even though your child is following the asthma action plan

If your child is having trouble breathing or having an asthma attack, get medical help right away.

Emergency symptoms include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bluish color to the lips and face
  • Severe anxiety due to shortness of breath
  • Rapid pulse
  • Sweating
  • Decreased level of alertness, such as severe drowsiness or confusion

A child who is having a severe asthma attack may need to stay in the hospital and get oxygen and medicines through a vein (intravenous line or IV).

REFERENCES

Dunn NA, Neff LA, Maurer DM. A stepwise approach to pediatric asthma. J Fam Pract. 2017;66(5):280-286. PMID: 28459888 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28459888.

Jackson DJ, Lemanske RF, Guilbert TW. Management of asthma in infants and children. In: Adkinson NF, Bochner BS, Burks AW, et al, eds. Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 53.

Lugogo N, Que LG, Gilstrap DL, Kraft M. Asthma: clinical diagnosis and management. In: Broaddus VC, Mason RJ, Ernst JD, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 42.

US Department of Health and Human Services; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Asthma care quick reference: diagnosing and managing asthma; guidelines from the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program, expert panel report 3. www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/guidelines/asthma_qrg.pdf. Updated September 2012. Accessed April 15, 2019.

Latest Research

Latest Advance
Study
  • Condition: Allergic Diseases
  • Journal: Allergology international : official journal of the Japanese Society of Allergology
  • Treatment Used: Omalizumab
  • Number of Patients: 0
  • Published —
This article discusses the treatment of various allergic diseases with omalizumab.
Latest Advance
Study
  • Condition: Pediatric asthma
  • Journal: BMC public health
  • Treatment Used: Community health worker home-based education
  • Number of Patients: 290
  • Published —
This study evaluated the impact of low cost community health corker home based education for pediatric latino patients with asthma who live in impoverished communities with difficulty access to high-quality healthcare.
Latest Advance
Study
  • Condition: Asthma in Children in the Remission Stage Concomitant with Acute Upper Respiratory Infection (AURI)
  • Journal: Zhongguo dang dai er ke za zhi = Chinese journal of contemporary pediatrics
  • Treatment Used: Intervention Measures
  • Number of Patients: 100
  • Published —
This study explored the intervention measures to maintain clinical control in children with asthma in the remission stage when concomitant with acute upper respiratory infection (AURI).
Latest Advance
Study
  • Condition: Preschoolers with Viral-Induced Asthma
  • Journal: Trials
  • Treatment Used: Two Oral Doses of 100,000?IU of Vitamin D3
  • Number of Patients: 47
  • Published —
This study determined the effectiveness of high-dose vitamin D3 in increasing serum vitamin D in preschoolers with asthma, and provided preliminary data on safety and effectiveness outcomes.

Clinical Trials

Clinical Trial
Behavioral
  • Status: Recruiting
  • Study Type: Behavioral
  • Participants: 80
  • Start Date: July 14, 2020
Air Quality Index (AQI) and Childhood Asthma: an Intervention
Clinical Trial
Other
  • Status: Recruiting
  • Participants: 500
  • Start Date: March 4, 2020
Childhood Allergy and the Neonatal Environment
Clinical Trial
Other
  • Status: Recruiting
  • Participants: 290
  • Start Date: March 1, 2020
Personalized Digital Health and Artificial Intelligence in Childhood Asthma
Clinical Trial
Other
  • Status: Recruiting
  • Study Type: Other
  • Participants: 125
  • Start Date: September 1, 2019
The Tailored Adherence Incentives for Childhood Asthma Medications (TAICAM) Trial