Asthma in Children Ages 3 and 4

What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs and airways – the tubes that bring air into and out of the lungs.It is common to different ages. If your child has asthma, these airways have become irritated and swollen, and this can affect his ability to breathe.

It’s important that you work with your child’s healthcare provider to prevent and treat asthma attacks. With the right medications, education, an asthma action plan, and regular medical follow-up, most asthmatic children do just fine.

What happens during an acute asthma attack?

If your child has an acute asthma attack, the lining of her airways will become even more inflamed and produce more mucus. Then the muscles around her airways will tighten and her breathing tubes will narrow. She may breathe rapidly, cough, or wheeze (make a whistling sound) as her breath is forced through the narrowed airways. You may notice your child’s nostrils flare or the skin around her ribs suck in with each breath.

If left untreated or there’s a delay in seeking medical attention, asthma attacks can be deadly. As soon as you notice symptoms of an attack, promptly give your child the “quick reliever” medicine prescribed by her doctor. (If you don’t have any emergency medicine take your child to the closest emergency department.)

Once the medicine opens her breathing tubes, the symptoms should subside. If the symptoms persist or get worse, take your child to the emergency department right away.

What do allergies have to do with asthma?

Exposure to allergens such as dust mites, cockroaches, mold, pollens, or animal dander can trigger or worsen symptoms in some children with asthma. This is referred to as allergic asthma. Seasonal allergies to outdoor pollens (also called hay fever) aren’t usually a problem before your child is 4 or 5, because it can take that long to develop a sensitivity to them. Allergies to dust mites, mold, or animal dander may appear earlier in life, though.

About 75 to 80 percent of children with asthma also have significant allergies. If your child has asthma and you know or suspect that he has allergies, you may decide to take him to an allergist for further evaluation and treatment to help prevent asthma attacks.

Are there other triggers?

Yes, other possible triggers include cold air, viral infections (such as the common cold), tobacco smoke and other air pollutants, or just plain running around. In fact, if your child often coughs and wheezes after a romp on the playground, she may have what’s called exercise-induced asthma.

How common is asthma in children?

Asthma is the most common serious chronic childhood disease, and it’s the third most frequent cause of hospitalization in children under 15 years of age. Asthma affects 6.5 million children in the United States today. Fifty to 80 percent of children with asthma develop symptoms before they’re 5 years old.

How can I tell whether my child has asthma?

It can sometimes be hard to tell whether your child has asthma or the symptoms of a cold or other respiratory illness. Your child’s doctor will examine your child and take a careful history, including a family health history, to help make a diagnosis.

If your child coughs frequently and has allergies or eczema, and your family has a history of asthma and allergies or eczema (especially if you and your partner both have them), there’s a good chance that your child has asthma. Her symptoms are likely to be worse at night.


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