It’s Not Easy Being Wheezy :: Tackling Childhood Asthma

Disclosure :: this post is sponsored by Children’s Hospital.

As a mom living in Southeast Louisiana, it is very likely that you’ve encountered a child with asthma. It is one of the most common chronic childhood diseases, affecting one in every ten children. Asthma is certainly the most prevalent diagnosis among patients seen in the Pulmonary Clinic at Children’s Hospital.

In the United States alone, asthma accounts for a loss of 10.5 million school days annually, resulting in a significant number of unplanned work absences for parents. Children who suffer from asthma often have trouble sleeping, playing and participating in school. As a mom, being able to recognize triggers, signs and symptoms of asthma, and when to seek treatment can help us achieve our biggest goal—allowing kids to be kids!

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a disorder of the airways in the lungs which is characterized by inflammation, airflow obstruction, and recurring symptoms. Although the exact cause is unknown, it is thought to be a mix of genetics and environment. In children, asthma is more common in boys than in girls and tends to run in families. It is also seen more often in individuals who have allergies and eczema. Attacks can be precipitated by exposure to allergens, changes in the weather, colds, physical activity, or they can have no identifiable cause.

How Do I Know If My Child Has Asthma?

Inflammation of the airways can lead to recurrent coughing and wheezing episodes, as well as chest tightness and shortness of breath. The cough is usually a dry, hacking cough that is worse at night. If symptoms progress, the child may develop rapid breathing, nasal flaring, and/or retractions (“pulling” under rib cage, in between ribs, or by the neck). These are signs that your child is struggling to breathe and should not be ignored! When in doubt, always err on the side of caution and have your child seen by a medical professional.

Occasional coughing or wheezing with a cold does not necessarily mean that your child has asthma; sometimes certain viral infections can precipitate these symptoms which will usually resolve as the illness subsides. Furthermore, wheezing as an infant or toddler does not mean that your child will have asthma when they get older because many children will outgrow their symptoms. Childhood asthma is commonly referred to as reactive airway disease.

A diagnosis of asthma is made based on several factors, but is largely based on the patient’s history and physical examination. In children ages 6 and older, pulmonary function tests can be obtained which will provide additional information on how well the lungs are working.

My Child Has Asthma, Now What?

Once a diagnosis of asthma has been established, the primary goal is to control symptoms and prevent flare-ups. Medication regimens are tailored to meet patients’ specific needs based on symptoms and asthma severity. Taking a further look into allergens that may be triggering asthma exacerbations may also be beneficial in controlling symptoms. The main culprits include cats, dogs, dust mites, mold, pollen and tobacco smoke.

Let’s face it – it’s not easy being wheezy, especially in the Big Easy! Living in New Orleans, a city that is full of environmental asthma triggers, can present many challenges to the wheezing child and their family. However, prompt recognition, immediate intervention, and ongoing treatment can alleviate many of the trials associated with this diagnosis.

About Lyndi Dupre, FNP

Lyndi Dupre is a nurse practitioner that practices in the pulmonology department at Children’s Hospital. After graduating from nursing school at LSU Health New Orleans, Dupre obtained a Master of Science in Nursing degree from Southeastern Louisiana University. She has been practicing at Children’s Hospital for six years, and her favorite part of her job is making a positive change in the lives of children.

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