What is asthma?

Asthma is a common lung disorder in which inflammation causes the bronchi to swell and narrow the airways, creating breathing difficulties that may range from mild to life-threatening. Symptoms include shortness of breath, cough, wheezing, and chest tightness.

What are the symptoms of asthma?

Asthma symptoms come in the form of recurrent attacks ranging in severity and number, and are triggered by exposure to allergens or infection in the respiratory tract.

Main symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Chest tightness or pain.
  • Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath.
  • A whistling or wheezing sound when exhaling.
  • Frequent coughing accompanied by runny nose and sneezing, especially with respiratory viral infection.

Symptoms of an acute asthma attack:

  • Asthma symptoms that are more frequent and bothersome
  • Increasing difficulty breathing
  • The need to use a quick-relief inhaler more often

These symptoms can lead to physical intolerance for children, limiting their ability to play, run or even speak during severe attacks.

What causes asthma?

It is not clear why some people get asthma and others don't, but researches attribute the cause to a combination of environmental and genetic (inherited) factors.

Most Important Risk Factors

  • Having a blood relative with asthma
  • Being overweight
  • Being a smoker or exposure to secondhand smoke or smoking of the mother during pregnancy
  • Exposure to occupational triggers, such as chemicals used in cleaning, farming and hairdressing.
  • Contamination of surrounding environment and air pollution by factory smoke and car exhaust.

What are asthma triggers?

Exposure to various irritants and substances that trigger allergies (allergens) can induce signs and symptoms of asthma. Asthma triggers are different from person to person and may include:

  • Smoking.
  • Allergies to certain things such as: chemicals, bird feathers, animal fur, pollen, dust, certain foods, liquids or preservatives.
  • Inhaling smoke from firewood, seeds or odors.
  • Respiratory viral infections.
  • Certain medications such as aspirin, beta blockers, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Strong emotions and stress
  • Intense exercise.
  • Hormonal changes such as the menstrual cycle in some women.
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of asthma depends mainly on the history of the disease, including symptoms, recurrence and triggers, followed by a clinical examination, lung function test and allergy test to identify allergen-causing factors.

Treatment

Prevention and long-term control are the key in stopping asthma attacks before they start, which helps the patient enjoy a normal life and exercise his daily activities.

Asthma treatment plan is divided into two parts:

  • Quick-relief (rescue) Therapy: It is used in acute attack, usually in the form of medications that quickly open swollen airways that are limiting breathing.
  • Preventive Treatment: It is used to control the disease and reduce frequency of attacks and prevent complications. Preventive medications use is adjusted based on the degree of control of symptoms and frequency of attacks and the use of quick-relief treatment. It is an effective treatment to control the disease; however, once abandoned, attacks are possible to reoccur. So, you can stop this treatment only under the supervision of your physician.

Preventive measures:

  • Exploration and avoidance of asthma irritants (see irritating factors). Constant exposure to such irritants exacerbates the disease even with the correct use of medications.
  • Cooperation between physician and patient to develop a complete treatment program that includes drug therapy and basic tests and regular follow-up appointments.
  • Adhere to preventive and treatment plan and ensure the correct use of therapeutic inhalers (see general tips).
  • Maintain general health and fitness by eating healthy food and exercising.
  • Quit smoking, and avoid smoking environment.
  • Take a seasonal flu vaccine to alleviate the infection.

General Tips:

Make sure to use inhaler properly to ensure that the drug enters the airways and achieve the desired effect. You can follow these steps:

  • Shake the inhaler very well before each use.
  • Remove the cap of the inhaler.
  • Place the inhaler in the place designated in the inhalation tube.
  • Breathe out all the way. Try to push out as much air as you can
  • Place your lips around the mouthpiece so that you form a tight seal. For children under six where mask-inhaler is used, place the mask firmly around the mouth and nose.
  • Press down on the inhaler one time
  • Let the child breathe for 10 seconds or inhale six times.
  • Repeat puffs as directed by your doctor for required dosage.

Develop a plan with the school to deal with acute attacks for the child and ensure that the child always carry quick-relief medication with him. Make sure to go to emergency in the following cases:

  • Acute or persistent symptoms such as wheeze with chest tightness, shortness of breath or chest pain.
  • Not responding to bronchodilators at home.
  • Worsening of symptoms; Shortness of breath, fatigue, increased breathing and heart rate or inability to speak.
  • Lips or limbs color changes to blue, deterioration of general condition and loss of consciousness in severe cases.

Misconceptions:

A child has asthma only when symptoms are present and asthma is cured when symptoms are absent.

  • Fact:
  • Asthma is a chronic condition and absence of symptoms does not mean the disease has cured. Preventive medications should be always used as directed by your physician.

Asthma drugs are addictive

  • Fact:
  • There is no scientific basis or realistic observations for this hypothesis. Some children continue to use these inhalers due to their need for such medications not because of addiction-related behavior.

Inhalers containing steroids have many side effects and should not be used.

  • Fact:
  • steroids used in asthma inhaler is safe, especially when used in proper dosage and manner. It does not cause symptoms as those caused by oral or injectable steroid-based medications. steroids administered by inhalers do not affect the child's development. Yet, stopping this medication may lead to severe asthma attacks, hypoxia, chronic respiratory condition affecting the child and its development, in such a case use of oral or injectable steroids may be required.

Children with asthma should avoid playing or physical stress.

  • Fact:
  • On the contrary, the goal of asthma treatment is to control the disease to help children live a normal life.