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Asthma and Children

What causes childhood asthma?

The majority of children with asthma have allergies. Even exposure to low-grade allergens (those that don't cause significant allergic reactions) may increase the severity of a child's asthma. In addition, allergies may play a role in undiagnosed asthma cases. Other triggers of childhood asthma may include:

  • Upper respiratory infections, such as colds

  • Inhaled irritants, such as secondhand smoke

  • Certain weather conditions, such as cold air

  • Physical expressions of emotion, such as crying, laughing, or yelling

However, with proper management of the asthma, such as avoiding triggers, taking prescribed medications, monitoring for warning signs, and knowing what to do during an asthma attack, a child with asthma can conduct a healthy and active lifestyle.

Do children outgrow childhood asthma?

How asthma will affect a child throughout his or her lifetime depends on the child. Many infants and toddlers have an episode or two of wheezing during viral illnesses (such as cold or flu). However, the majority of these children don't go on to develop asthma later in life. For some children with persistent wheezing and asthma during childhood, the condition improves during the teenage years. About half of the children who have asthma at a young age appear to "outgrow" it, although the asthma symptoms may reappear later in life. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, asthma can't be cured, but it can be controlled with proper and adequate diagnosis, education, and treatment.

If my child has asthma, can he or she participate in sports?

Photo of children playing soccer

Exercise, such as running, may trigger an asthma attack in many children with asthma. However, with proper management, a child with asthma can maintain full participation in most sports. Aerobic exercise actually improves airway function by strengthening breathing muscles. Some tips for exercising with asthma include the following:

  • Have your child breathe through the nose and not the mouth to warm and humidify the air before it enters the airways.

  • Give your child asthma medication before exercising, as recommended by your child's doctor. If your child exercises daily, the doctor may recommend an inhaled corticosteroid.

  • Have your child carry a "reliever" or "reserve" medications, just in case of an asthma attack.

  • During cold weather, have your child wear a scarf over the mouth and nose, so that the air breathed in is warm and easier to inhale.

Asthma and school

Some children with asthma may need to take their medications during school hours. It's important that the child, family, doctor, and school staff all work together toward meeting the child's asthma treatment goals. To ensure optimal asthma care for your child at school, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology recommends the following:

  • Meet with teachers, the school nurse, and other relevant school staff to inform them about your child's condition, special needs, and asthma management plan in case of an urgent or emergent situation.

  • Educate school personnel on your child's asthma medications and how to assist during an asthma attack. It is also important to ask them not to change your child's asthma care management plan in an emergent situation unless approved by your child's doctor.

  • Ask school staff to treat your child "normally" when the asthma is under control.

  • Before starting a physical education class, educate that teacher or coach on exercise-induced asthma.

  • Check indoor air quality, allergens, and irritants in the school.

  • Take steps to prevent asthma symptoms from starting that could hamper your child's energy level.

  • Ensure your child's emotional well-being by reassuring that asthma doesn't have to slow him or her down or make him or her different from other children.

Giving your child control of asthma throughout the years

Photo of young girl using asthma inhaler while mother watches

It's very important to be honest with your child about his or her disease, the severity of the disease, and the use of medications. Always remember as your child grows that independence is an important goal. Children with asthma don't want to be different, yet they'll need guidance and supervision on any restrictions they might have:

  • Toddlers. This age group relies completely on the parents. These children understand little about the disease. The most important factor with this age group is to try to make medication time a fun one, while stressing the importance of taking the medications. Let the children assist in any way possible.

  • School-age. These children have an increased ability to understand their disease and its impact. They should be taught about their medications, how to exercise caution, and how to avoid their triggers. They should be encouraged to play with friends and begin to monitor their own symptoms.

  • Adolescents. Generally, adolescents resist having to take chronic medications, don't like having restrictions on their life, and don't want to be different. It's crucial to involve adolescents in every aspect of the management of their asthma. They should help with goal setting and help decide which medications work best. Asthma "contracts" can be given to adolescents in order that they may have some control of their asthma, yet continue to allow overall parental supervision of the condition.

    Having asthma doesn't have to mean having less fun than other adolescents. It is important for your adolescent to tell his or her friends and dates what triggers the asthma, such as cigarette smoke or even perfumes or aftershaves, depending on his or her sensitivity. In addition, your adolescent should continue taking the asthma medication as prescribed. If your adolescent has exercise-induced asthma, he or she may need to take a preventive medicine before participating in any physical activities, such as dancing. Always consult your child's doctor if you or your child has questions or concerns.

Reviewed Date: 07-29-2013

Asma y los Niños
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Treating Teen Acne
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When Your Child Refuses to Go to School
When Your Child Says, 'I'm Sick'
Your Child’s Separation Anxiety
Quizzes
Allergies Quiz
Asthma Awareness Quiz
Asthma Knowledge Quiz
Asthma Quiz
Childhood Asthma Quiz
Teen Health Quiz
Diseases & Conditions
Adolescent (13 to 18 Years)
Adolescent Mental Health Overview
Adolescents and Diabetes Mellitus
AIDS/HIV in Children
All About Asthma in Children
Amenorrhea in Teens
Anatomy of a Child's Brain
Anatomy of the Endocrine System in Children
Anxiety Disorders in Children
Asthma Attack Triggers
Asthma in Children Index
Asthma Medications
Avoiding Asthma Triggers
Bicycle, In-Line Skating, Skateboarding Safety--Injury Statistics and Incidence Rates
Bipolar Disorder in Children
Bone Marrow Transplantation in Children
Brain Tumors in Children
Breast Conditions
Breast Self-Examination
Chemotherapy for Children: Side Effects
Chronic Respiratory Disorders
Congenital Laryngeal Stridor
Diphtheria in Children
During an Asthma Attack
Dysmenorrhea in Adolescents
Ewing Sarcoma
Female Growth and Development
Firearms
Glossary - Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
Gynecological and Menstrual Conditions
Hand-Held Nebulizer Treatments
Hepatitis B (HBV) in Children
High Blood Pressure in Children and Adolescents
Home Page - Adolescent Medicine
Home Page - Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
Infectious Mononucleosis in Adolescents
Inflammatory and Infectious Musculoskeletal Disorders
Inflammatory and Infectious Neurological Disorders
Inguinal Hernia in Children
Insect Bites and Children
Kidney Transplantation in Children
Levels of Asthma
Major Depression in Adolescents
Management and Treatment of Asthma
Meningitis in Children
Menstrual Disorders
Mood Disorders in Children and Adolescents
Muscular Dystrophy
Myasthenia Gravis in Children
Obesity in Adolescents
Online Resources - Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
Oral Health
Osteosarcoma in Children
Overview of Adolescent Health Problems
Pap Test for Adolescents
Peak Flow Meters/Oximeters/Spirometers
Pediatric Blood Disorders
Poliomyelitis (Polio) in Children
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Children
Pregnancy and Medical Conditions
Preparing the School-Aged Child for Surgery
Schizophrenia in Children
School-Aged Child Nutrition
Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis
Sports Safety for Children
Stridor
Superficial Injuries Overview
Television and Children
Thalassemia
The Growing Child: 2-Year-Olds
The Growing Child: Adolescent (13 to 18 Years)
The Heart
The Kidneys
Topic Index - Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
Upper Respiratory Disorders
Vision Overview
Whooping Cough (Pertussis)
Wisdom Teeth Extraction in Children

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.