Childhood Asthma is a worry for most parents as it is frightening to witness any child having an asthma attack. In the UK asthma has a staggering amount of children suffering the condition. In fact more than 1 million children suffer the conditions, most of which are boys rather than girls.
Asthma has many causes and triggers that are difficult to avoid during childhood, however good management can control the condition and reduce the risks of attacks. There are multiple types of asthma which all fluctuate in severity and range from mild to severe.
In childhood asthma the bronchi becomes swollen and inflamed ( the bronchi are the tiny tubular passages that carry air to and from the lungs ). The sensitivity of the bronchi is a cause for concern in asthmatic children as triggers that irritate the bronchi are difficult to avoid. Triggers such as dust mites which are around us daily in the home, animal fur especially if you as parents or relatives have pets, tobacco smoke is unavoidable if parents or relatives are smokers, pollens surround us daily outside the home, cold air which is impossible to avoid and chest infections almost always aggravate asthma. During this sensitivity of the bronchi the tubes tend to reduce due to the muscles surrounding them tightening and restricting the bronchi. Phlegm is then over produced and settles in the bronchi as a sticky mucus which leads to a tightening feeling in the childs chest causing panic, coughing and wheezing which ultimately leads to a difficulty in breathing.
It is said that children who have asthma diagnosed at an early age in childhood are more likely to grow out of the condition when they reach puberty, however it is shown that asthma in children that were at a moderate to severe type it may well clear up during pubescent years but also tends to return during adulthood with the same severities.
There are so many causes of childhood asthma and all causes have contributing factors to the progression of asthma. The main causes seem to be genetic predisposition, which means that a possible faulty gene can cause asthma to develop, diet and nutrition and some things that we encounter daily can cause and provoke asthma. Children who are at more risk of developing childhood asthma are either children who have atopic conditions ( atopic means allergies such as hay fever, eczema or allergic conjunctivitis ) a family history of asthma, children who have a medical family history of asthma, children who develop a secondary atopic condition, children who have a prolonged exposure to tobacco smoke, children who are born prematurely and children who are born with a low birth weight.
Although tobacco smoke, animal furs and pollens are widely associated with triggers to provoke childhood asthma there are also external factors to consider such as Chest Infections – Viruses in the upper airways or bacterial parasites in the bronchi, Allergies – As mentioned dust mites, pollens and animal furs, Airborne Irritants – Tobacco smoke, certain fumes and pollutions in the air, Medications – Some types of non steroidal medications such as aspirins or ibuprophens, Emotional – anxiety and stress, or coughing and laughing, or Sulphites contained in Foods – Sulphites are natural in some food and drink, but are also used as food preservatives showing a higher content in some jams, seafood and some processed foods.
Signs and Symptoms of Childhood Asthma
These signs and symptoms of childhood asthma differ in severity, but in most cases tend to be more severe during the night or after long physical exercise. Monitor your child carefully and if you are concerned then call your childs GP or Asthma clinic immediately.
- Tightening of the chest
- Breathless feeling
- Coughing and wheezing
- Significant dip in the Peak Flow Test Rate
- Fast Pulse Rate
- Agitation and restlessness
Treatment of Childhood Asthma
Do not be fooled into thinking that asthma can be cured because it is not possible, however if carefully monitored and managed then asthma can be controlled. You need to bear in mind that the prevention of triggers of asthma developing can help.
Medications from the GP can relieve the symptoms of asthma, but the correct usage must be obeyed. The correct dosage of the preventative inhaler (usually a brown or orange inhaler) must be taken each morning and each night without fail even if your child looks like they are doing okay and do not appear to need the inhaler.
The relieving inhaler (usually the blue inhaler) must be carried with you and your child everywhere you go just in case an asthma attack happens. A good idea would be to keep a relieving inhaler easily accessible in the home, in the car, at the childs school (preferably in their classroom or if old enough on their person), at relatives homes and for mums always keep one in your handbag.
Regular appointments should be made twice annually with the asthma nurse who will also monitor your childs asthma signs and symptoms and work with you to eliminate triggers that can be avoided.
You and your child will be taught how to recognise asthma triggers, signs of an asthma attack and how to deal with these situations, although as a parent you will find that you will be able to recognise a weakening in the peak expiry flow rate test and act accordingly in order to prevent asthma attacks.
Leading to Death
If left untreated asthma could have some serious complications. Minor issues such as tiredness, long term absence from school, exclusion from physical activities leading to anxiety, stress and even depression have all been notice in untreated asthma in children.
Untreated asthma can not remain if you seek medical advice from your GP. It is very important as if remained untrated asthma can have much more serious complications such as continuous chest and lung infections leading to pneumonia, lung collapsing, respiratory failure leading to a possible severe asthma attack where treatment is then unresponsive (staus asthmaticus). Is it really worth taking this risk as untreated asthma may even lead to death.
More than 1,300 people in the Uk have died from asthma related deaths in the last three years giving an average of one death every seven hours caused by untreated asthma. This is more common in adults than in childhood however out of 16,834 deaths from asthma 239 children under the age of fifteen years old have died from asthma related deaths in the last twelve years.