Asthma is a relatively common condition in children, and about one in five children will experience asthma at some point. The symptoms can range from mild to severe and can usually be treated with medication, like Ventolin. Asthma can be managed effectively, and most children with asthma will be able to enjoy healthy, active lifestyles.
What is asthma?
Asthma is a condition where small passages in the lungs close. This is caused by environmental factors that swell and inflame the lung passages and result in the build-up of mucus. This makes it harder for air to enter and exit the lungs, causing coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing.
What are the symptoms of asthma?
Some of the signs and symptoms of asthma include:
- wheezing or whistling breathing
- fast breathing and panting
- difficulty breathing (often identifiable by flared nostrils and laboured expansion of the chest and belly)
- difficulty eating or sucking on foods
- persistent coughing
What causes asthma?
Scientists don’t know for certain what causes asthma. Some of the possible causes and risk factors may be a family history of asthma or allergies, obesity in mothers during pregnancy, a mother who smoked during pregnancy or having eczema.
Some of the triggers for asthma in babies and toddlers include:
- being exposed to smoking
- pollen, dust and pets
- air pollution
- weather or climate changes
- infections, such as the common cold.
Treating and living with asthma
Asthma action plans are helpful for understanding triggers for your child’s asthma, as well as treating it when attacks occur. Many medicines are very simple and easy to administer yourself, and children can be trained to self-administer when they are of school age.
Medicine is generally either a reliever (treating the acute symptoms of asthma) or a preventer (taken daily to make the airways less sensitive to triggers).
Some children will grow out of asthma as their lungs develop more resistance and resilience to triggers. It is possible to ‘grow out’ of symptoms, only to have them return years later.
More severe cases of asthma, or when asthma is paired with hayfever, may be more persistent throughout life.
A common issue in managing asthma is that children do not use their ventilator correctly. Chat to your pharmacist about the proper way to administer asthma medicine. Most pharmacists will recommend the use of a spacer with a puffer.
Seeking medical support
If you are noticing signs that your baby or toddler has asthma, it’s important to see a doctor. They can provide you with an asthma action plan and prescribe you with medicine and advice for treating asthma attacks.
If your baby, toddler or child is having difficulty breathing, has blue lips, has deteriorating symptoms or doesn’t have a prescribed inhaler (or one is not available), you should seek urgent medical attention or call an ambulance.