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Managing Asthma in Children: A Primer

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Managing Asthma in Children: A Primer

Jun 05, 2024

Asthma can be a daunting diagnosis for parents, but it can be managed effectively with the right knowledge and tools. Pediatrician Cindy Gellner, MD, discusses how asthma affects the airways and makes it difficult to breathe while outlining the medications used to treat and manage the condition. Learn how to recognize asthma symptoms, the importance of treatment adherence, and strategies to prevent exacerbations.

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    Parents will often bring their kids in for a cough and wonder if their child is asthmatic. Well, not all coughs are asthma but most asthmatics do cough. So what exactly is asthma?

    What is Asthma?

    According to the American Lung Association, the official definition of asthma is a chronic disorder of the airways involving airflow obstruction due to bronchial hyperresponsiveness and underlying inflammation. So what does that mean?

    Well, the bronchi are the large tubes in the lungs. When someone with asthma starts to have an asthma attack the muscles in the bronchi go a little crazy. They hyper or over-respond to a stimulus that normally wouldn't cause someone a problem and it gets supertight constricting airflow. In addition, they become overly inflamed creating a lot of mucus and swelling. Together the bronchi restrict airflow into the smaller areas of the lungs and a person with asthma starts to have a hard time breathing as a result.

    Managing and Treating Asthma

    To treat asthma one needs to treat hyperresponsiveness and inflammation. Medications like albuterol which is a bronchodilator will help relax the bronchi muscles to open up the airways. Other medications like inhaled steroids will help tackle the inflammation on a daily basis so even if a patient's asthma is triggered the person only needs to reduce the constriction of the bronchi because the inflammation part of asthma has already been treated.

    Prevention and Family History

    Parents of kids with asthma often ask me "Could we have prevented our child from having asthma?" Unfortunately not really. The tendency for a person to have asthma runs in families. If a parent has allergies asthma or eczema their child is more likely to have any of those three or in my kids' case all three because I have all three.

    While asthma itself can't be prevented asthma exacerbation absolutely can with good asthma management. Many factors in a patient's history determine what medications are needed and how much medication is needed. It can take a little while to get a patient's asthma under control depending on what their triggers are and how well they respond to the medications.

    If you think your child is asthmatic your pediatrician will be able to help determine their diagnosis their level of asthma and what the best treatment options are.