CPR First Aid

Living With Childhood Asthma: A Parent’s Guide

Childhood asthma is a condition some kids and parents have to live with for a very long time. Read on this guide for asthma prevention and management tips.

If you are a parent of a child with asthma, you know it can be challenging to keep them healthy and comfortable. Asthma is a common respiratory condition that can cause coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. While there is no cure for asthma, there are many things you can do to help control it. This guide provides information on living with childhood asthma, including tips on managing symptoms and medications. Working with your child’s doctor to create a treatment plan that works best for them is vital.

How Does Asthma Physically Affect a Child?

When a child has an asthma attack, the airways constrict and become narrower than normal. This makes it difficult for air to move in and out of the lungs. The lining of the airways also becomes inflamed and starts to produce excess mucus. All of these changes make it hard to breathe.

During an asthma attack, a child may experience wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. Their chest may feel tight, and they have difficulty talking or playing. Asthma attacks can range from mild to severe and, in some cases, life-threatening.

Child with asthma: narrowed airways hinder breathing; inflammation & mucus add to difficulty.

What is Dyspnea?

Dyspnea is the medical word for shortness of breath. To some people, descriptions of dyspnea include:

  • Air hunger.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Running out of air.
  • Being unable to breathe quickly or deeply enough.

What is Bronchospasm?

Bronchospasm is one of the reasons why children with asthma have difficulty breathing during attacks. The constriction of the smooth muscles of the bronchi, or big airways, decreases the diameter of the lumen of the bronchus. This is the one that produces a high pitched sound called wheezing.

Bronchospasm in asthma causes wheezing by narrowing airways.

How Widespread is Pediatric Asthma in Australia?

According to the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation of New Zealand, around 1 in 9 people has asthma. In Australia, including Southport QLD, asthma is the most common chronic disease in children, which affects about 1 in 4 pediatric patients. It is also a leading cause of hospitalisation in children. Meanwhile, in adults, asthma affects about 1 in 10 people.

Is There a Cure for Asthma?

Although there is no known cure for asthma, it can be controlled with medication and lifestyle changes. Most children with asthma can have normal, active lives with proper treatment. However, some children may experience more severe symptoms that require hospitalisation. In extreme cases, asthma can be fatal if not treated properly.

The education sector and childcare facilities must have trained staff in first aid and should have completed Southport asthma and anaphylaxis course. If you are interested to learn more about first aid qualifications, contact CPR First Aid near you.

Common Triggers of Asthma

  • Allergens such as dust mites, pollen, and animal dander
  • Irritants such as smoke, pollution, and strong smells
  • Infections such as the common cold and flu
  • Exercise
  • Cold air
  • Emotional stress

Severe Asthma Attacks

Severe asthmatic attacks in children are marked by sudden symptoms, including shortness of breath, wheezing, and chest tightness. The child may also have difficulty speaking or coughing. The attack may be accompanied by anxiety and a sense of suffocation.

In severe cases, the child may experience cyanosis, or a bluish tinge to the skin, due to a lack of oxygen. The child’s pulse may be rapid, and their breathing may be shallow. They may also have a decreased level of consciousness and be unable to communicate.

If not treated immediately, severe asthmatic attacks can lead to respiratory failure and death. Treatment for a severe asthmatic attack typically includes the administration of:

  • oxygen
  • beta-agonists
  • corticosteroids
  • sometimes anticholinergics

The child may also be hospitalised for additional treatment and observation. Severe asthmatic attacks are potentially life-threatening and should be treated immediately by trained medical personnel.

Childhood Asthma Risk Factors

There are several risk factors for asthma in children. Numerous factors, such as the following, increase a child’s risk of developing asthma:

Genetics

If a parent or sibling has asthma, the child is more likely to develop the condition.

Allergies

People with hypersensitivity reactions like hay fever are at increased risk of asthma.

Environment

Exposure to specific environmental triggers such as tobacco smoke, air pollution, or viral infections can increase a child’s risk of developing asthma.

Talk to your doctor if you are worried that your child may be at risk for asthma. They can help you determine if your child is likely to develop the condition and recommend steps you can take to reduce their risk.

What to Do When You Have a Child with Asthma?

Working with a healthcare team to make a treatment plan for a child with asthma is essential. They’ll be able to run the necessary tests to establish the diagnosis and develop a treatment strategy.

Develop an Asthma Action Plan

In Australia, an asthma action plan is created by the health care team headed by the doctor and is usually participated by the parents. This concise list of guidelines for your child’s asthma symptoms alters or varies. Every asthma patient should have a customised asthma action plan.

The asthma action plan for an asthmatic child will outline the following:

  • how to spot signs that your child’s asthma is growing worse 
  • how to recognise an attack is coming and what can be done to control it.
  • how to identify severe symptoms that call for immediate medical attention (with emergency information on what to do if your child has an asthma attack)
  • the trigger factors of the child’s asthma

If your child has an asthma attack, it’s critical to maintain your composure and adhere to the asthma action plan you and your doctor have created. The plan will serve as a guide as to what you should do and when to do it. In most cases, the attack can be treated at home with over-the-counter or prescription medications. However, you must take your child to the emergency room if the attack is severe.

Australian asthma plan: doctor-led team & parents develop personalized guidelines for child's symptoms.

Asthma Medication for Children

Many treatments focus on helping the child manage their symptoms and preventing attacks. Some of the most common treatments for children with asthma include:

Inhaled Corticosteroids

These medications are typically used daily to help reduce inflammation in the airways and prevent attacks.

Bronchodilators

Used as needed to help open up the airways and ease symptoms during an attack.

Oral Corticosteroids 

It may be used for a short period during a severe asthma attack or flare-up.

Allergy shots (immunotherapy)

For children with asthma triggered by allergies, allergy shots may be recommended to help reduce the severity of symptoms.

The type of treatment that is best for a child with asthma will depend on several factors, including the severity of their condition and any triggers that may be present.

How to Help Children Avoid Triggers?

  • Keep the house clean and free of dust and mould.
  • Use an air purifier or HEPA filter.
  • Bathe pets regularly and keep them out of the bedroom if possible.
  • Vacuum regularly with a vacuum that has a HEPA filter.
  • Encourage your child to wash their hands often, especially before eating.
  • Teach them to avoid touching their face.
  • Make sure they get vaccinated against the flu every year.
  • Encourage them to do gentle exercises such as yoga or Tai Chi.
  • Dress them in warm clothing in cold weather.
  • Help them to manage stress with relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or visualisation.

Some Great Exercises for Childhood Asthma

  • Swimming – one of the most popular workouts for those with asthma
  • Walking – a fantastic low-intensity exercise option
  • Hiking
  • Bike riding for fun
  • Track and field for short distances

Conclusion

For parents of children with asthma, learning to live with the condition is a lifelong process. While there is no one right way to manage asthma, some basic steps can help make life easier for you and your child. Taking these steps can help prevent asthma attacks in children and keep them healthy and happy.

A Cnr Ferry Rd and, Cotlew St E, Southport 4215, first aid certification in asthma and anaphylaxis are required and beneficial in the workplace, home, and community setting. For more information, contact CPR First Aid RTO 21903.

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