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Signs of Asthma in Children

written by: K. A. Arbuckle • edited by: Tania Cowling • updated: 9/20/2010

Asthma affects millions of children. If you suspect a child has asthma, look for specific signs of asthma in children. Fortunately, asthma is treatable and prevention methods may help reduce attacks.

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    Asthma is a serious, chronic condition affecting the airways. These tubes become inflamed, causing breathing difficulties. MedlinePlus estimates that 9 million children in the United States suffer from some form of asthma. Asthma causes children to miss about 13 million days of school each year. Signs of asthma in children vary, but are usually noticeable.

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    Signs and Symptoms

    Asthma in children often is recognizable from a combination of signs and symptoms. Look for the following signs:

    • Coughing
    • Wheezing
    • Shortness of breath
    • Increased heart rate
    • Chest tightness
    • Nighttime coughing

    If you notice any of these signs in a child, seek medical care as soon as possible. Asthma attacks land many children in the emergency room and can be prevented through reduction in triggers and medication.

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    Asthma Attacks

    An asthma attack can have several causes, including exercise, allergies, stress, and poor air quality. Some asthmatics also have sensitivities to fumes from cleaners. This can be especially difficult for children in school. Changes in weather and illness also cause attacks. During an attack, the child may have very shallow breathing and breathe in an awkward manner. Talking can be difficult and halted during an attack. If the attack continues, the lips and face take on a blue tint due to the lack of oxygen. Without treatment, the child might lose consciousness.

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    Prevention

    Asthma symptoms and attacks can be reduced through environmental changes. Because approximately 70 percent of asthma sufferers also have allergies that can trigger attacks, reduce any allergens from the environment and food choices. A clean, dust- and mold-free home helps many asthma sufferers. Wash bedding regularly in hot water, and consider using mattress and pillow covers designed to reduce asthma triggers. Many asthmatic children have allergies to pet dander. If you have pets, wash them frequently and keep them out of the bedrooms. Keep asthmatic children inside when pollen levels are high. Avoid using strong-smelling perfumes, cleaners or air fresheners.

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    Treatment

    Inhaler 

    If you suspect a child has asthma, he should see a health care provider as soon as possible. Untreated asthma can cause damage to the lungs. Severe asthma attacks can be life-threatening. When you report signs of asthma in children to your health care provider, he may perform a number of tests, including breathing tests and X-rays. Children will usually be put on two medications, depending on the triggers. For example, a child with allergy-induced asthma will likely need to take an allergy medication as well as a fast-acting medication, such as an Albuterol inhaler or nebulizer. Some doctors may prescribe medication to reduce inflammation.

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    References

    MedlinePlus: Asthma in Children

    http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/asthmainchildren.html

    University of Maryland Medical Center: Asthma in Children and Adolescents: Symptoms

    http://www.umm.edu/patiented/articles/what_symptoms_of_asthma_children_000005_5.htm

    AAAAI: Asthma Statistics

    http://www.aaaai.org/media/statistics/asthma-statistics.asp

    MayoClinic.com: Childhood Asthma: Symptoms

    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/childhood-asthma/DS00849/DSECTION=symptoms

    Image from Wikimedia Commons by Raul654