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Asthma is one of the most common chronic conditions in the country, affecting more than 25 million, or 1 in 13, Americans annually. The disease makes it harder to move air through the lungs, causing symptoms like breathing trouble, coughing, or wheezing, which can be aggravated by environmental factors, stress and other health issues.
Asthma is a disease that causes chronic inflammation and swelling in the airways. In addition to constant swelling that can complicate breathing, irritants like the weather or airborne allergens can trigger an “attack,” closing the airways even more tightly and possibly restricting airflow entirely.
Risk factors for asthma include a family history of allergies or asthma, prenatal exposure to tobacco, tobacco exposure in the home, obesity, allergies and environmental factors like high air pollution.
The onset of asthma can happen at any stage of life, but is most common in children. Symptoms also vary in severity, with mild cases or occasional incidents happening over a patient’s lifetime, or more serious symptoms requiring routine oversight.
Though it is possible for asthma symptoms to resolve after the lungs fully develop, this is not always the case.
If you suspect your child may be living with asthma, keep an eye out for the following signs and symptoms.
Know the Signs
The most common signs of asthma include:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Shallow or rapid breathing, especially after physical activity
- Unexplained coughing
“Sometimes your child won’t look short of breath,” said Annabelle Dimapilis, D.O., Inspira Medical Group Primary Care Somerdale. “He or she may complain that they can’t run/walk as fast as the other kids or that they tire out easily. Or when you watch them, they are resting more frequently than others.”
It’s important to make a mental note of the time you notice these symptoms. If you notice attacks or incidents for several weeks during the same time of day or following physical activity, it’s even more important to make an appointment with your allergist or primary care physician.
Though asthma is manageable with help from your doctor, it is a potentially deadly condition.
First, it’s important to be aware of your child’s triggers and minimize their exposure whenever possible. In mild cases, minimizing exposure to triggers can prevent most asthma attacks.
If symptoms continue or are more severe, medical intervention is necessary to reduce inflammation. Depending on their major triggers, different formulas and delivery methods are available.
For example, your child’s doctor may recommend an inhaled corticosteroid, currently the most common long-term treatment for asthma, which slows inflammation in the airways. For younger children, this medication can be added to a mask or nebulizer, as well as a handheld inhaler. Inhalers can be taken at the onset of symptoms, or at a set time to act as routine maintenance.
There is currently no cure for asthma, but long-term treatments are available and effective.