Asthma is a common illness that usually starts in young children. It causes difficulty breathing and chest pain because the child’s airways get irritated easily. These children react strongly to things found in their environments like dust, smoke or pollen. Symptoms of asthma in children start showing before the age of 5 in most cases. In these young children, getting medical treatment as soon as possible is essential.
Although the symptoms and their frequency differ in these children. The following are signs that may suggest that your child has asthma:
- Frequent cough that is worse at night.
- Shortness of breath or fast breathing.
- Whistling or wheezing sound while breathing (especially when breathing out).
- Frequent chest congestion or cold.
- Chest pain or tightness.
- Parents or siblings that have asthma or similar symptoms.
- Cough or other symptoms triggered by smoke, dust, pollen or strong scents.
- Other allergic symptoms like dry skin, skin rash, watery eyes or red eyes.
If you think your child has asthma, do not panic. The following tips will help you care for your child:
- Speak to a healthcare provider to confirm the diagnosis and to draw up a treatment plan for your child.
- Keep your child away from triggers. Common examples include dust, cooking smoke, cigarette smoke, exercise, cold weather and pollen.
- Learn what to do in severe situations. Sometimes asthma symptoms can get worse, and your child may struggle to breathe. Know what to do (ask you healthcare provider) and act fast. You should also know when to visit the clinic.
- Ensure your child's rescue medications are always close. Take your child’s medications and put some in school bags, cars, leave them with school teachers and in strategic parts of your house. Do not let the medicines run out before you replace them.
- Teach your child what to do when their symptoms start. Tell your child how to notice an attack and what to triggers to avoid. You should also make sure they understand how vital their medications are, especially the emergency ones.
- Monitor your child's health regularly and record it. You may use a peak flow meter (a device that measures the force with which someone breathes) or note the symptoms and write them down in a diary before your next clinic appointment.
- Speak to your child's school and teacher about the condition. Informing the school authorities will help them know what to do in your absence and how to keep your child safe.
Asthma in children uniquely affects each child. Although it runs in some families, not all children of parents with asthma will have the condition. The aim is to reduce the number of attacks and allow your child to have a normal and healthy childhood. Some children will find that their symptoms reduce as they grow older, and as a result, they need their rescue medications less often. While this is good news, they should remember to still carry them around.