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Controlling and Treating Asthma Symptoms in Children

Learn how to overcome the symptoms of asthma. Video courtesy of Le Bonheur Children's Hospital.

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-Asthma is the most common chronic medical condition in childhood and is responsible for a lot of emergency room visits and hospital stays as well as missed days of school and work for children and families affected. One key point that I really wanna stress is that most of these are preventable and that while we cannot cure asthma, we can control the symptoms. Many people think that asthma is something that you outgrow. And unfortunately, it doesn't quite work that way, although you may outgrow the need for regular medication. When we think about symptoms from asthma, the times that they're most likely to show up are the late night wee hours of the morning or in times of exertion, so it might show up while a child is playing sports or running around and playing or a child may wake up in the night between midnight and 4 a.m. for reasons that aren't clear. And those instances really we should pay attention to whether or not a child is wheezing. And I think everyone kind of expects wheeze with asthma. What happens when the airways constrict is that airflow is limited more so when you breath out or on exhalation and so you'll hear the classic wheeze, but asthma doesn't always wheeze and coughing and wheezing are cousins and so sometimes children with asthma might do more coughing than wheeze. The other thing to pay attention to is that children don't always articulate exactly what's going on with their breathing the same way an adult might. In other words, they might just realize that they're thirsty because they're breathing hard and that might be asthma or their stomach might hurt or they might complain of back pain or chest discomfort. These are things that should prompt us to consider it. If a child had symptoms frequently enough, then they should seek care from a medical provider so that they can preventive care if needed. When a child has acute symptoms, obviously they should be seen as well to be taken cared of properly. So, one type of inhaler that we have is called albuterol. That helps relax those muscles and open the airway so that we can breathe better. That's what we call our rescue inhaler. We use those in times when we're having symptoms of cough, or wheeze, or chest tightness. But if that happens often enough, then we know there's a second problem in that airway that we can't feel but also needs to be treated. So that problem when treating the inflammation, we have to use a medication that we can take twice daily everyday to prevent symptoms. And this is against what people are used to thinking they wait 'til they have symptoms to treat them, but that's a very important difference that there are two different types of inhalers. So again, asthma is a very common problem and about 10 percent of children will have it. And the good news is we can control asthma with proper treatment. If you think your child has asthma or your child has asthma that may not well be controlled-- be well controlled, it's important to talk to your pediatrician to get the care you need.