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Childhood Asthma

Asthma is a condition where the bronchi (the lungs airway)  become swollen, irritated and inflamed. The function of the bronchi is to carry air into and away from the lungs.

The respiratory system consists of lungs, airway, diaphragm, windpipe, throat, mouth and nasal passages.  Respiratory problems occur when irritants inflame the airways.

Sensitivity in the bronchi makes them susceptible to irritation and triggers such as pet hair, pollen, smoke, dust mites are enough to cause inflammation within the bronchi.

Inflammation causes the bronchi to narrow as the muscles around them tighten and this may cause difficulty in breathing. The chest will feel tight and the presence of additional mucus or phlegm may result in wheezing and persistent coughing. Symptoms may vary in individuals and can range from mild to severe but medication can normally relieve and control the damage of narrowing airways. Asthma tends to be more common in boys although both boys and girls suffer from this condition. Fortunately children who have this condition from a very young age can outgrow it as they mature. Asthma can be an inherited condition although environmental triggers are also a factor for this condition developing.

Around 75 % of children will have outgrown this condition by the time they are teenagers, but asthma can return in later years especially if the symptoms were severe in childhood.

What are the symptoms of asthma?

  • Wheezing

  • Tight chest

  • Coughing

  • Breathlessness

What triggers asthma?

  • Stress can cause asthmatic reaction

  • Chest infection or upper airway infection

  • Some medicines such as ibuprofen and aspirin
    Allergens as described above such as pollen, house dust mites, cigarette smoke, animal fur.

  • Food that contains sulphites /additives ( often used as a food preservative)

Symptoms of asthma are often worse at night or during or after exercise and can vary in how severe an attack is or in the length of time it will last. Indicators of an asthma attack could be :

  • increased wheeze

  • becoming very restless and irritated

  • pulse rate increases

  • a decrease in peak flow rate

Medical assistance/guidance must be saught if a child’s condition is deteriorating.

Severe asthma attack

  • symptoms worsen rapidly

  • talking becomes difficult

  • breathing difficult

  • pulse quickens

  • lips and fingernails can turn blue

  • neck and chest feel tight

If severe symptoms are present you must seek medical help from emergency services.

If your child has asthma you can help to reduce asthma attacks by :

helping them to remain in a smoke free environment. The presence of smoke in the child’s’ environment will make the condition worse.

flu vaccine and pneumococcal can be given to vulnerable children to help prevent complications during illness

try to keep weight at a healthy level by giving a well balanced diet (5 fruit and veg a day, reduce fat intake and eat lots of fibre) and exercising. Exercise should be regular and can vary to meet individual needs.

if triggers have been identified, be aware of them and avoid if possible.

seek medical advice promptly if any illness is aggravating breathing condition.

If your child’s’ asthmatic condition is not controlled it may result in : extreme tiredness and exhaustion (sleep and rest are vital), stress or depression and a failure to perform in school or to be able to attend school. This may also lead to psychological problems as they feel isolated. Support groups or asthma charities may be able to give advice and help.

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