Matthew 25:40

"And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ "

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Childhood Asthma

Childhood asthma has become more widespread in recent decades. As the most common chronic illness in children, childhood asthma causes more missed school and places more limits on activity than does any other disease in the United States. Childhood asthma and adult asthma have the same underlying cause — inflammation of the airways. This inflammation makes the airways overly sensitive, leading to signs and symptoms that range from minor coughing or wheezing to serious flare-ups that interfere with breathing.
Fortunately, childhood asthma is treatable. Although childhood asthma can't be cured, you and your child can keep symptoms under control with a written plan, monitoring, regular doctor visits and making treatment changes as needed.

Childhood asthma can be very disruptive, causing bothersome daily symptoms that interfere with play, sports, school and sleep. In some children, unmanaged asthma can cause serious or even life-threatening asthma attacks.
Common childhood asthma symptoms include:
*A whistling or wheezing sound when exhaling
*Shortness of breath
*Chest congestion or tightness

Other signs and symptoms of asthma in children include:
*Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing
*Bouts of coughing or wheezing that get worse with a respiratory infection such as a cold or the flu
*Delayed recovery or bronchitis after a respiratory infection
*Fatigue or trouble breathing during active play or exercise — signs of exercise-induced asthma

Asthma signs and symptoms vary from child to child, and may get worse or better over time. While wheezing is most commonly associated with asthma, not all children with asthma wheeze. Your child may have only one sign or symptom, such as a lingering cough or chest congestion.
Sometimes it's difficult to tell whether your child's symptoms are caused by asthma. Wheezing episodes and other asthma-like symptoms may be caused by infectious bronchitis or other respiratory problem.

When to see a doctor Take your child to see the doctor as soon as possible if you suspect he or she may have asthma. Early treatment will not only help control disruptive asthma flare-ups, it may also improve breathing every day.

Make an appointment if you notice:
*Coughing that's constant, intermittent or associated with physical activity
*Wheezing or whistling sounds when your child exhales
*Shortness of breath or rapid breathing that may or may not be associated with exercise
*Complaints of chest tightness
*Repeated episodes of suspected bronchitis or pneumonia

Pay attention to cues from a child who says, "My chest feels funny" or "I'm always coughing." Asthma can be worse at night, so listen for coughing during sleep or coughing that wakes your child in the night. Crying, laughing, yelling, or strong emotional reactions and stress also may trigger coughing or wheezing. If your child is diagnosed with asthma, creating an asthma action plan can help you monitor symptoms and be ready if an asthma attack does occur.
When to seek emergency treatment Even if your child hasn't been diagnosed with asthma, seek medical attention immediately if he or she has any trouble breathing. Although episodes of asthma vary in severity, asthma attacks can start with coughing, which progresses to wheezing and rapid breathing.

In severe cases, you may see your child's chest and sides pulling inward as he or she struggles to breathe. Your child may have an increased heartbeat, sweating and chest pain. Seek emergency care if your child is:
*Breathing so hard that he or she has to stop in midsentence to catch his or her breath
*Using abdominal muscles to breathe
*Widening the nostrils when breathing in
*Trying so hard to breathe that the abdomen is sucked under the ribs when he or she breathes in

In children with asthma, an overly sensitive immune system makes airways become inflamed and swollen when exposed to triggers such as smoke or allergens. Sometimes, asthma symptoms occur with no apparent triggers. When asthma flares up, airway muscles constrict, the lining of the airways swell, and thick mucus fills the bronchial tubes, leading to asthma symptoms.

Asthma triggers differ from child to child and include:
*Viral infections such as the common cold
*Allergens such as dust mites, pet dander, pollen or mold
*Tobacco smoke or other environmental pollutants
*Weather changes or cold air
*Conditions linked to asthma include:
*A chronic runny or stuffy nose (rhinitis)
*Inflamed sinuses (sinusitis)
*Heartburn (gastroesophageal reflux disease)

Risk factors
It isn't clear why some children get asthma and others don't, but it's probably due to a combination of genetic (inherited) and environmental factors. Children with a family history of asthma are at greater risk of developing the disease. Other environmental factors that may increase your child's chances of developing asthma include:
*Exposure to tobacco smoke
*Previous allergic reactions, including skin reactions, food allergies or allergic rhinitis (hay fever)
*Living in a large urban area with increased exposure to air pollution
*A family history of asthma, allergic rhinitis, hives or eczema
*Low birth weight

Asthma may cause a number of complications, including:
*Severe asthma attacks that require emergency room visits or even hospitalization
*Permanent narrowing of the bronchial tubes (airway remodeling)
*Side effects from long-term use of some medications used to stabilize severe asthma (oral corticosteroids)
*Slightly slowed growth in children caused by long-term use of inhaled corticosteroids

Preparing For Your Appointment
A big part of diagnosing childhood asthma depends on accurately reporting your child's symptoms. Be prepared to talk to the doctor about:
Exactly what symptoms your child has
Whether symptoms occur at certain times of day
Whether symptoms get worse or improve at certain times of the year
What, if any, triggers seem to set off asthma flare-ups
Whether your child has allergies, and whether he or she has a family history of allergies or asthma

Tests and Diagnosis
Asthma is a very individual condition. Your child's doctor will consider the nature and frequency of symptoms along with results from tests to rule out other diseases before diagnosing asthma.
First, the doctor will ask for a detailed description of your child's symptoms and ask about your family history of asthma or allergic diseases such as eczema, hives or allergic rhinitis (hay fever).
In children 6 years of age and older, doctors diagnose asthma with the same tests used to identify the disease in adults. Lung function tests (spirometry) measure how quickly and how much air your child can exhale. Your child may have pulmonary function tests at rest, after exercising and after taking asthma medication. Allergy tests also may be part of the evaluation.
In younger children, diagnosis can be difficult because lung function tests aren't accurate before 6 years of age. Some children also simply outgrow asthma-like symptoms over time. Your doctor will rely on detailed information about symptom type and frequency when considering an asthma diagnosis in a young child. Sometimes a diagnosis is not made until later, after months or years of observing symptoms.

If you suspect your child has asthma, it's important to start the testing process early. Early diagnosis and proper treatment can prevent disruptions from daily activities such as sleep, play, sports and school. It may also prevent dangerous or even life-threatening asthma attacks.
For children younger than age 3 who have symptoms of asthma, many times doctors will use a "wait-and-see" approach. This is because the long-term effects of asthma medication on infants and young children aren't clear. If an infant or toddler has frequent or severe wheezing episodes, a course of medication may be prescribed to see if the wheezing improves symptoms.

Treatments and Drugs
The goal of asthma treatment is to get the asthma under control.
Well-controlled asthma means that your child has:
*Minimal or no symptoms
*Few or no asthma flare-ups
*No limitations on physical activities or exercise
*Minimal use of fast-acting "rescue" inhalers
*Few or no side effects from medications

Treating asthma involves both preventing asthma symptoms and treating an asthma attack in progress. Preventive medications reduce the inflammation in your child's airways that can lead to symptoms. Quick-relief (rescue) medications quickly open airways that are swollen and limiting breathing.

While quick-relief medications work quickly, they can't keep your child's symptoms from coming back. If your child has frequent or severe symptoms, he or she will need to take a long-term control medication as well. Your child's symptoms and triggers are likely to change over time. You and your child will need to carefully monitor asthma symptoms and work with your doctor to adjust medications as needed.

Long-term control medications These preventive anti-inflammatory medications are generally taken every day on a long-term basis to control persistent asthma. In some cases, these medications are taken seasonally if asthma symptoms get worse at certain times of the year. These medications include:
*Inhaled corticosteroids, used to treat persistent asthma. These medications reduce chronic inflammation in the airways and reduce the need for other medications. Examples include fluticasone (Flovent), budesonide (Pulmicort), mometasone (Asmanex), triamcinolone (Azmacort), flunisolide (Aerobid) and beclomethasone (Qvar). Continuous inhaled corticosteroids have been associated with slightly slowed growth in children, but research has shown that the effect is minor. In most cases, the benefits of good asthma control outweigh the risks of possible side effects.
*Combination inhalers, which contain inhaled corticosteroids plus a long-acting bronchodilator. Advair combines the corticosteroid fluticasone and the bronchodilator salmeterol. Symbicort contains the corticosteroid budesonide plus the bronchodilator formoterol.
Leukotriene modifiers, which include montelukast (Singulair) and zafirlukast (Accolate) and zileuton (Zyflo).
*Cromolyn, which may help prevent mild to moderate asthma attacks. Cromolyn needs to be taken two to four times a day and is usually taken along with an inhaled corticosteroid.
Theophylline, a daily pill that opens the airways (bronchodilator). It relaxes the muscles around the airways to make breathing easier.
*Quick-relief (rescue) medications These medications — called short-acting bronchodilators — provide immediate relief of asthma attack signs and symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness or shortness of breath. These inhaled medications are delivered using a small, hand-held device called a metered dose inhaler. Albuterol is the most commonly used short-acting bronchodilator. Others include pirbuterol and levalbuterol. These bronchodilators begin working within minutes and last four to six hours.
*Allergy-desensitization shots (immunotherapy) Immunotherapy may help if your child has allergic asthma that can't be controlled by avoiding triggers. With immunotherapy, your child will probably need injections once a week for a few months, then once a month for a period of three to five years. Your child's allergic reactions will gradually diminish, lessening the immune system response that triggers asthma symptoms.
*Inhaled medication devices Inhaled short- and long-term control medications are used by inhaling a measured dose of medication.

Older children and teens may use a small, hand-held device called a pressurized metered dose inhaler or an inhaler that releases a fine powder.
Infants and toddlers need to use a face mask attached to a metered dose inhaler or a nebulizer to get the correct amount of medication.
Babies need to a use a device called a nebulizer, a machine that turns liquid medication into fine droplets. Your baby wears a face mask and breathes normally while the nebulizer delivers the correct dose of medication.
*HFA inhalers: A recent change The chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) propellant in quick-relief asthma inhalers has been replaced with a propellant called hydrofluoroalkane (HFA). Unlike CFC inhalers, HFA inhalers don't harm the environment. The spray from the new inhalers may taste different. Although the spray from an HFA inhaler may not seem as strong, your child is still getting the full dose of medication.

Lifestyle and Home Remedies
Taking steps to reduce your child's exposure to things that trigger asthma symptoms will help your child stay healthy and lessen the possibility of asthma attacks. Here are some things you can do:
*Use your air conditioner. Air conditioning helps reduce the amount of airborne pollen from trees, grasses and weeds that finds its way indoors. Air conditioning also lowers indoor humidity and can reduce your exposure to dust mites. If you don't have air conditioning, try to keep your windows closed during pollen season.
*Make your home more asthma friendly. Minimize dust that may aggravate nighttime symptoms by replacing certain items in your bedroom. For example, encase pillows, mattresses and box springs in dust-proof covers. Remove carpeting and install hardwood or linoleum flooring. Use washable curtains and blinds.
*Maintain low humidity. If you live in a damp climate, talk to your doctor about using a dehumidifier.
*Keep indoor air clean. Have a utility company check your air conditioner and furnace once a year. Change the filters in your furnace and air conditioner according to the manufacturer's instructions. Also consider installing a small-particle filter in your ventilation system.
*Reduce pet dander. If your child is allergic to dander, it's best to avoid pets with fur or feathers. *Regular bathing or grooming also may reduce the amount of dander in your surroundings.
*Clean regularly. Clean your home at least once a week.
*Reduce exposure to cold air. If your child's asthma is worsened by cold, dry air, a face mask can help.
*Help your child stay healthy Staying active and treating other conditions linked to asthma will help keep your child's asthma under control.

Make sure your child:
*Gets regular exercise. Asthma symptoms can interfere with active play or sports. But don't let asthma sideline your child. Exercise is proved to reduce asthma symptoms and is a critical part of your child's cardiovascular health. With asthma under control, there usually is no limit to your child's physical activity level.
*Maintains a healthy weight. Being overweight can worsen asthma symptoms, and it puts your child at higher risk of other health problems.
*Controls heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It's possible that the acid reflux that causes heartburn may damage lung airways and worsen asthma symptoms.

Alternative medicine
*While some alternative remedies are used for asthma, in most cases more research is needed to see how well they work and to measure the extent of possible side effects.

(Information derived from: