Asthma in children: What you need to know
Smoking cigarettes when pregnant may lead to your child developing asthma. Other possible causes of asthma are genetic, living in congested hoods, obesity or respiratory conditions that include sinusitis, rhinitis or pneumonia.
Dr Peninah Musyoka, a Pediatrician at Machakos Children’s Clinic, explains that asthma is not an infection, but an inborn allergic reaction that affects the lower respiratory system, especially the bronchioles.
When asthmatic children are exposed to allergens like cigarette smoke, dust, dust mites, fur, mold, or cold air, their bronchioles produce chemicals that make them contract, thus inhibiting breathing.
Asthmatic symptoms like frequent coughing may worsen when the child has a viral infection. This may lead to wheezing when the child breathes out, shortness of breath or chest congestion. This may interfere with play, school work or dangerous asthmatic attacks.
Dr Musyoka says medical attention should be sought as soon as a child begins struggling to breathe, especially when their nostrils enlarge while breathing, have to stop mid-sentence to breathe or when their abdomen is sucked under the ribs.
The pediatrician also explained the best way to diagnose asthma is by checking the history of the patient, including when and where the symptoms occur.
But a definite asthma diagnosis is the lung function test before blowing into an inhaler and “if the child was wheezing and it eases off, then it is probably asthma,” says Musyoka.
Managing asthma involves managing allergens that cause it, like cold, where a room is kept warm and the baby sufficiently layered with warm clothes.
If the cause is dust, then the room should be dust-free, or avoiding carpets that may trap dust or dust mites and avoid pets like cats and dogs that may shed fur on the child’s clothing or beddings.
Children with asthmatic attacks are given inhalers, which are bronchodilators making the child breathe better.
“Every time the patient is having an acute difficulty in breathing, then there is inflammation in the bronchioles, therefore the steroids inhaler is given to control the inflammation and it is better than the oral steroids because it goes directly into the bronchioles.” Musyoka explained.
Antihistamines can be used as a temporary relief but doctors do not recommend them for an asthmatic attack since the relief is short-lived.
One way of preventing asthma, advises Musyoka, “is by taking a flu vaccine which has been shown to help the child prevent flu, which is one of the allergens that lead to an attack.
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