Common Asthma Questions

1. What is Asthma?A chronic respiratory disease that is characterized by swelling inside the airways that is always present and periodic constriction or bronchospasm of the outer walls of the airways.2. How do I know if my child has asthma?If your child demonstrates any one or combination of the following behaviors, he may have asthma and should be checked by a doctor:a. Makes a wheezing noise when he breathes. Wheezing is a whistling sound in the throat marked by a high-pitched, musical quality.b. Coughs a lot, even without a cold or other respiratory symptoms. Coughing often occurs at night and may awaken you and/or your child.c. Your child often complains of not being able to catch their breath after physical exercise or play.d. Your child complains of his chest feeling “tight” or heavy.e. Your child seems to fatigue easily with physical exercise or play.3. How is asthma diagnosed?A doctor can only diagnose asthma. Your doctor will ask some questions including whether or not other family members have the disease, evaluate your child’s symptoms, and sometimes perform a pulmonary function test. 4. Can asthma be cured?No, asthma cannot be cured, but it can be treated and controlled. With a comprehensive medication treatment plan and essential education, you and your child can learn to live symptom free all or most of the time.5. Can my child outgrow asthma?The asthma may change as your child gets older. Sometimes it gets worse, sometimes better. No one fully knows why this happens, but regular doctor visits and awareness of the symptoms and triggers go a long way to gaining control over the disease.6. Do all children with asthma have allergies?No. While 80% of children with asthma have allergies, not all do. If you think your child has allergies because you notice an increase in symptoms at specific times of the year, speak to your doctor about possible allergy testing.7. Is asthma often caused by food allergies?No. It is rare to find asthma that is associated with food allergies. However, children with asthma should avoid foods that contain sulfites. These are preservatives found often in shrimp, processed or packaged potatoes, relishes and pickles, red and yellow food coloring, processed meats such as bologna and hot dogs, and MSG.8. How do I know when my child is in trouble and what should I do?For any parent of a child with asthma, it is imperative that you learn how to identify when your child is getting into trouble. You must learn to recognize your child’s symptoms and when they are getting worse, what medicines to use, and how to avoid emergency situations. Until you learn these critical steps, every asthma attack can be serious and life threatening!9. I’ve been told that my child has “mild” asthma. Does this mean that his attacks will only be mild?Absolutely not! All classifications of asthma, from mild to moderate to severe can have very serious attacks. The classification of asthma relates to the diagnosis of the disease based on the frequency of symptoms and the results of a pulmonary function test. The severity of an attack is a separate issue and can be life threatening for any child with asthma. All asthma attacks need attention and response!10. What are the most common triggers for asthma attacks?a. Molds and pollensb. Dustc. Dander or flakes from the skin, hair, or feathers of animalsd. Cockroachese. Cigarette and wood smokef. Upper respiratory infections such as cold and flug. Scented products such as hairspray, perfume, cosmetics, potpourri, scented candles, incense, air and carpet freshenersh. Air pollutioni. Strong odors or fumes from fresh paint, insecticides, cleaning products, laundry products, cooking and automobile fumesj. Stress, anxiety, fear, and depressionk. Changes in the weather or temperature11. What kind of medications will my child have to take?There are basically two categories of asthma medicine. The controllers – the medications used regularly to control the swelling that is always present in your child’s airways and the rescue meds that relieve bronchospasm that occurs during an attack. You need to work with your child’s doctor to create a medicine plan that works well for your child. Ask the doctor to clarify which medicines are controllers and which ones are rescue meds. Ask him for a treatment plan for your child.12. If my child’s asthma is under control, why does he still need to take medication? The controller meds are what are keeping your child’s asthma under control. If he stops taking them, his asthma may worsen and result in an attack.13. How do I know if my child’s asthma is under control or not?If your child feels good, sleeps without waking during the night, is experiencing no symptoms, and is able to participate in exercise or play, his asthma is under control. If your child is experiencing ongoing asthma symptoms (wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, or excessive fatigue), can’t fully participate in exercise or play, or is using his rescue medicine frequently, his asthma is not controlled. 14. Why can’t my child just use a bronchodilator inhaler when he is having asthma symptoms?A bronchodilator is a rescue medicine used to relax the smooth muscle of the outer airway during a bronchospasm. It does nothing for the swelling that is always present inside the airway. It is the internal airway swelling that must be treated to achieve control over the disease. Periodic use of an inhaled bronchodilator only treats part of the problem, and only when symptoms are increasing and an attack is imminent. As more attacks occur, your child’s risk of experiencing a life-threatening emergency increases.15. What are the zones in asthma?The zones are the three levels of control in the life of a child with asthma. They mirror a traffic light in their significance:Green – Go. No asthma symptoms. Peak flow is 80% or greater of personal best.Yellow – Caution. Some asthma symptoms. Peak flow is between 50% and 80% of personal best.Red – Stop! Medical emergency – breathing is difficult. Peak flow is less than 50% of personal best.16. What is the peak flow and why is it important?Peak flow is a measurement of how fast air can be exhaled by your child. It is an important measurement because in children with asthma, their ability to forcefully exhale air is decreased. When their asthma is getting worse, this number gets lower. Often, your child’s peak flow result will change before he begins experiencing symptoms. If you track this number daily, you will be able to recognize when he is getting into trouble and take measures to keep him from getting worse or experiencing an attack.17. What is my child’s personal best peak flow?The personal best peak flow result is different for every child. It is the highest number they can achieve on the peak flow meter during a 21 day period when they feel good and are in their green zone.18. How do I get a peak flow meter for my child?A peak flow meter is a small, inexpensive device that may be obtained from your physician, on our website, or in a pharmacy. Often, when purchased with a doctor’s prescription, many insurance companies will pay for the peak flow meter. 19. My child does well at home but often experiences asthma symptoms at school. What can I do?Make sure your child has an asthma treatment plan and that you give a copy of it to your school nurse. Get your child’s doctor to complete this treatment plan in writing and make an appointment to review it with your child’s teacher(s), PE instructor, and school nurse. They need to have a clear understanding of your child’s symptoms, medications, and how to respond to an attack.20. What does a treatment plan look like?An asthma treatment plan can come in many different formats. Any basic plan should include:a. What medicine your child is on routinely to “control” his asthma.b. What medicine if any your child takes before exercise.c. What other medicines your child might use along with his asthma medicines (i.e., antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal sprays).d. The increased dose of controller meds used when your child is experiencing symptoms or is in his “yellow” or “red” zones.e. What rescue meds should be used when your child is in his “yellow” or “red” zones, to include the dose and frequency.f. Who to contact in an emergency.

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