What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic (long-lasting) disease of the airways (lungs) that involves:

  • Inflammation (swelling): The body’s natural response to harmful stimuli; often exaggerated in asthma patients
  • Airway obstruction: Too much inflammation leads to narrowing of the airways, making it harder for air to move through them
  • Hyper-reactivity: Airway muscles react strongly to inhaled irritants, narrowing the airways even more

What are the symptoms of asthma?

  • A cough (often worse at night)
  • Wheezing- whistling sound heard when breathing
  • Shortness of breath or problems breathing
  • Chest tightness/pain
  • Difficulty playing sports or exercising
  • Symptoms are often worse during exercise or around triggers

What is a trigger?

An asthma trigger is anything that can cause a flare-up in your child's asthma symptoms. Common triggers include:

  • Tobacco Smoke
  • Dust Mites
  • Pollen
  • Air Pollution
  • Cockroach Allergy
  • Pet Allergy
  • Mold
  • Smoke from Burning Wood/Grass
  • Symptoms can sometimes get worse if your child is sick. Infections such as the flu, common colds, and sinus infections can all increase the chance for an asthma attack.

What is the treatment for asthma?

  • Avoid triggers
  • Use rescue medications such as short-acting bronchodilators, like Albuterol. These medications are only to be used when asthma symptoms are present (or sometimes before exercise)
  • Use controller medications such as inhaled corticosteroids or other anti-inflammatory medicines. These medications are aimed at preventing asthma attacks (used every day)
  • NOTE: After an asthma attack, your doctor may prescribe the frequent use of rescue medications +/- oral steroids.

What is an Asthma Action Plan?

Every child should receive a personal asthma action plan. An Asthma Action Plan tells you what to do if your child begins to feel symptoms related to an asthma attack and what to do if they continue.

  • Green Zone: The green zone shows you what to do when your child is feeling normal.
  • Yellow Zone: The yellow zone shows what to do if your child has some asthma symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, tight chest, or waking up at night due to coughing/wheezing. Refer to the red zone if no improvement.
  • Red Zone: The red zone shows what to do if your child is having a serious asthma attack. Symptoms are similar to yellow zone symptoms, but often more pronounced or lasting for a long period of time. If you enter the red zone, call your doctor. If symptoms do not improve quickly, go to the ER.

What are pulmonary function tests?

  • These are tests the doctor may order to look at how well your lungs are working compared to other people like you.
  • Follow the respiratory therapist’s instructions closely, and the test is really easy!

What is an asthma attack?

An asthma attack is a flare up of asthma symptoms. Airways begin to shrink as the sides of the airways swell. Mucus is usually present as well, which clogs the airways even more. Because of this, less air gets in and out of your child's lungs.

What are symptoms of an asthma attack?

  • Fast breathing
  • Retractions
  • Using muscles between the ribs, using abdominal (stomach) muscles to breathe, using shoulder muscles to breathe, or tracheal tugging (skin "pulling" in the hollow of the throat while breathing).
  • Complaints of chest pain or difficulty breathing
  • Cough 
  • Wheeze
  • Shortness of breath

If your child develops any of these symptoms, follow your asthma action plan!

How can I prevent my child from having an asthma attack?

  • Avoid triggers.
  • Minimize smoke exposure.
  • Use good hygiene to prevent the spread of viruses
  • Make sure your child gets a flu shot yearly.
  • Use medications as prescribed.
  • It is important to use controller medications every single day if prescribed, even if your child has not had any symptoms recently!
  • Follow-up with your doctor as scheduled.