Asthma in Children – What Parents Should Know?
Bronchial asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the respiratory tract. It is accompanied by the bronchial tree spasm. A pulmonologist is involved in the treatment of the disease. If necessary, parents should visit an allergist and an immunologist.
What is asthma in children?
Bronchial asthma is recognized as one of the most common chronic pathologies among school-age children. The number of patients is increasing every year. It is associated with the deterioration of the environmental situation.
Asthma is a severe pathology. In the absence of treatment, it is accompanied by the development of complications. The least dangerous conditions are frequent ARVI, chronic rhinitis, sinusitis. But there are more severe ones. The lack of adequate therapy significantly worsens the patient’s quality of life. It leads to impaired physical and mental development, and even to life-threatening conditions.
The disease nature is not fully understood. The pathology is considered multifactorial. The predisposition is determined genetically. In children, bronchial asthma often develops on the background of allergic reactions.
In bronchial asthma, there is the reaction of the mucous membrane of the bronchial tree to certain triggers. These include high or low temperature and humidity, inhalation of allergens (pollen, wool, dust mite), contact with medicinal and chemical substances, physical activity, stressful situations.
As a result, dysfunctional immune inflammation develops in the bronchial mucosa. The epithelial lining becomes swollen and produces excessive mucus for protection. However, it thickens with bronchial asthma. Partial or complete obstruction of the bronchi develops. The situation is aggravated by bronchospasm known as contraction of the smooth muscles of the bronchi. As a result, the lumen of the bronchial tree is significantly narrowed (due to mucus obstruction and muscle spasm). The patient suffers from attacks of excruciating coughing and expiratory dyspnea. The volume of oxygen supplied to the body is sharply reduced, all tissues start to experience hypoxia (oxygen starvation), as a result of which any biochemical reactions are disrupted.
- an allergic form of asthma;
- infectious-dependent (manifested on the background of SARS or bacterial respiratory diseases);
There is also aspirin-induced, hormone-dependent, autoimmune, exersice-induced asthma. Asthma can be mild, moderate or severe depending on the frequency and severity of attacks.
Allergic and mixed are more often diagnosed in children. Symptoms at first may be indefinite and resemble a cold. However, later the clinical picture becomes more characteristic. The disease manifests itself:
- paroxysmal unproductive cough (at the end of the attack, a small amount of mucus is secreted);
- whistling sounds during inhalation-exhalation;
- shortness of breath (mostly difficult to exhale);
- a kind of chest pain.
Children with bronchial asthma have a cough with wheezing for a long time. The symptom intensifies during active games, stressful situations (during crying, fright), at night. The seizures occur soon after the baby goes to bed.
After coughing, there is a feeling of shortness of breath. Breathing speeds up, wheezing appears, chest movements become more noticeable. It becomes difficult for the patient to exhale, because it is necessary to suppress strong resistance from the narrowed bronchi. After the seizures, the child is lethargic, apathetic, sleepy.
It is impossible to unequivocally indicate the exact cause of bronchial asthma in children. The contributing factors are:
- poor heredity (children are more often sick if one of the parents has the same diagnosis);
- allergic diseases in early childhood;
- smoking mother while pregnancy;
- frequent infectious diseases of the respiratory tract;
- poor ecology (living in big cities, gas-polluted areas);
- unfavorable living conditions (dustiness of premises, excessive use of household chemicals).
At the moment, food allergy is also considered a triggering factor. Long-term use of foods that stimulate the body’s allergy (chocolate, spices, additives) on the background of burdened heredity can provoke asthma.
With the timely disease detection and the correct approach to therapy, it is possible to minimize the number of attacks and significantly improve the patient’s quality of life. A feature of childhood bronchial asthma is the possibility of a complete cure. The reason for this is that the child’s body is constantly and dynamically developing. Therefore, if you create conditions under which the bronchi will begin to react normally, and the immune system will work adequately, then the child will completely get rid of the disease. Such an outcome cannot be achieved in adulthood.
The doctor carefully examines the anamnesis (including family), records complaints, examins the heart and lungs. Evaluating this information in conjunction with the results of an additional examination, the doctor makes a diagnosis and selects the optimal treatment.
Diagnostics are based on tests to assess the function of external respiration. Based on these results, the degree of bronchial obstruction is defined. The survey includes:
- peak flowmetry (measurement of peak rate during forced expiration);
- spirography (measurement of lung volume);
- pneumotachography (measurement of the air expiration rate in the middle of the expiration).
It is necessary to determine the allergic status to identify provoking factors. According to blood tests and bronchial mucus, the severity of the disease is determined. X-rays of the lungs are taken to assess the obstruction degree.
The goal of therapy is to effectively control the disease, which will provide the child with the opportunity to live a full life (to play sports, to develop mentally and physically correctly). With the right treatment, the symptoms can be completely controlled and complications prevented.
An integrated approach is used to treat bronchial asthma in children. The treatment program is based on the factors’ exclusion that provoke an attack (allergens, stress, overload, etc.). Taking into account the disease form, medications are prescribed that eliminate inflammation in the bronchi, normalize the secretion and excretion of mucus, and reduce the bronchial reactivity. Separately, medications for emergency relief of seizures are selected, which relieve bronchospasm and restore lung ventilation.
Treatment of any disease (flu, ARVI, colds and even headache) in a child with bronchial asthma should be carried out under the doctor’s supervision.
Asthma prevention in children
Preventive measures are relevant for children prone to allergies, as well as those whose close relatives suffer from asthma. Such events must be carried out from birth. To prevent bronchial asthma, you should:
- breastfeed a newborn as long as possible;
- avoid foods that can cause allergies (honey, chocolate, nuts);
- timely and under the supervision of a pediatrician treat colds and infectious diseases;
- minimize contact with household allergens (chemicals, dust, animal hair);
- use pillows and blankets with hypoallergenic fillers;
- refuse any interior items that accumulate dust (carpets, heavy curtains);
- regularly air the house and do wet cleaning;
- create a favorable psychological environment in the family.
The most effective measures are aimed at general strengthening of the body and stimulation of immunity system. These include an active lifestyle, good nutrition, daily walks in the fresh air, cold training.