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Your Child's Asthma

Your Child's Asthma

What causes childhood asthma?

Researchers continue to learn what causes asthma. It is not fully understood. The following things play a part:  

  • Genetics. Asthma runs in families.

  • Allergies. Some allergies are more common in people with asthma. Allergies also tend to run in families.

  • Respiratory infections. Infants and young children who have some respiratory infections are more likely to have long-term lung problems.

  • Environmental factors. Irritants such as pollution and allergens are known to cause asthma.

What causes asthma symptoms to get worse (flare-ups)? 

Triggers are those things that cause asthma symptoms to get worse or cause asthma flare-ups. Each child has different triggers. A very important part of asthma management is identifying triggers—and then trying to stay away from them. Asthma triggers include:

  • Allergens such as pollen, dust, and pets

  • Upper respiratory infections such as colds or the flu

  • Inhaled irritants such as secondhand smoke

  • Certain weather conditions such as cold air

  • Exercise or physical activity

  • Emotions such as crying, laughing, or yelling

Do children outgrow asthma?

How asthma will affect a child throughout his or her lifetime varies.

  • Many infants and toddlers may wheeze when sick with a viral illness, such as cold or flu. But most of these children don't get asthma later in life.

  • Some children with persistent wheezing and asthma get better during the teen years.

  • About half of the children who have asthma at a young age seem to outgrow it. But asthma symptoms may come back later in life.

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

Exercise, such as long-distance running, may trigger a flare-up in many children with asthma. But with correct management, a child with asthma can fully participate in most sports. Aerobic exercise actually improves airway function by strengthening breathing muscles. Some tips for exercising with asthma include the following:

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

  • During cold weather, have your child wear a scarf over their mouth and nose to warm inhaled air.

  • Give your child asthma medicine before exercising, as recommended by your child's healthcare provider. If your child is not already on controller medicine and they exercise daily, the provider may recommend daily controller medicine.

  • Have your child carry their quick-relief inhaler medicine.

Asthma and school

Some children with asthma may need to take their medicines during school hours. It's important that you and your child work with the healthcare provider and school staff to meet your child's asthma treatment goals. Laws about students carrying rescue inhalers vary by state. Make sure you understand the laws. Make sure that your child knows when and how to use their inhaler. For the best asthma care for your child at school, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology recommends the following:

  • Meet with teachers and other relevant school staff to tell them about your child's condition, special needs, and asthma management plan.

  • Educate school personnel on your child's asthma medicines and how to help during an asthma flare-up.

  • Ask school staff to treat your child as normal as possible when the asthma is under control.

  • Before starting a physical education class or a team sport, make sure the teacher or coach understands that exercise can trigger asthma symptoms.

  • Talk with teachers and school administrators about indoor air quality, allergens, and irritants in the school.

  • 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.

Controlling asthma through the years

Be honest with your child about asthma. Remember, as your child grows, that independence is an important goal. Children with asthma don't want to be different. But they need guidance and supervision.

  • Toddlers. This age group relies completely on the parents. These children understand little about asthma. The most important factor with this age group is to try to make medicine time fun. But you must also stress the importance of taking the medicines. Let children help in any way possible.

  • School-age. These children are more able to understand asthma. They should be taught about their medicines and how to stay away from their triggers. They should begin to watch their own symptoms.

  • Teens. Often, teens resist taking long-term (chronic) medicines. They also don't like restrictions and don't want to be different. Involve teens in every part of asthma management. They should help with goal setting and help decide which medicines work best. An asthma care contract can be used. It should allow for teen self-care while allowing overall parental supervision.

    Having asthma doesn't mean having less fun than other teens. It is important for your teen to tell his or her friends about their triggers.

Always talk with your child's healthcare provider if you or your child has questions or concerns.

Reviewed Date: 08-01-2018

Your Child's Asthma
Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
Dr. Angela Duff Hogan
Dr. Cynthia Kelly
Dr. Kelly Maples
Dr. Lindsey Moore
Dr. Maripaz Morales
Dr. Lauren Smith
Health Tips
Helping Kids Get Over their Fears
Helping Teens Embrace Self-Care
How Old Is "Old Enough" for Contacts?
What to Look for on OTC Medicine Labels
Your Child’s Separation Anxiety and School
Quizzes
Allergies Quiz
Asthma Awareness Quiz
Asthma in Children Quiz
Asthma Knowledge Quiz
Asthma Quick-Relief Medicine Quiz
Asthma Triggers Quiz
Childhood Asthma Quiz
Teen Health Quiz
NewsLetters
Eat This, Not That to Manage Your Chronic Disease
Good Night, Sleep Tight—And Symptom-Free
Homework Help: For Parents
Is It Just a Cough—Or Childhood Asthma?
Diseases & Conditions
Adolescent (13 to 18 Years)
Amenorrhea in Teens
Anatomy of a Child's Brain
Anatomy of the Endocrine System in Children
Anxiety Disorders in Children
Asthma in Children
Asthma in Children Index
Asthma Triggers
Becker Muscular Dystrophy (BMD) in Children
Bone Marrow Transplant for Children
Brain Tumors in Children
Breast Conditions in Young Women
Chemotherapy for Children: Side Effects
Chronic Respiratory Disorders
Congenital Laryngeal Stridor in Children
Ewing Sarcoma in Children
Female Growth and Development
Firearms
Gynecological and Menstrual Conditions
Hepatitis B (HBV) in Children
High Blood Pressure in Children and Teens
Home Page - Adolescent Medicine
Home Page - Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
Inflammatory and Infectious Musculoskeletal Disorders
Inflammatory and Infectious Neurological Disorders
Inguinal Hernia in Children
Insect Bites and Children
Kidney Transplantation in Children
Major Depression in Teens
Meningitis in Children
Menstrual Cramps (Dysmenorrhea) in Teens
Menstrual Disorders
Mood Disorders in Children and Adolescents
Myasthenia Gravis (MG) in Children
Oral Health
Osteosarcoma (Osteogenic Sarcoma) in Children
Overview of Adolescent Health Problems
Pap Test for Adolescents
Pediatric Blood Disorders
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Children
Pregnancy and Medical Conditions
Preparing the School-Aged Child for Surgery
Schizophrenia in Children
School-Aged Child Nutrition
Sports Safety for Children
Stridor in Children
Superficial Injuries of the Face and Head- Overview
Teens and Diabetes Mellitus
Television and Children
Thalassemia
The Growing Child- Teenager (13 to 18 Years)
The Growing Child: 2-Year-Olds
The Heart
The Kidneys
Topic Index - Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
Upper Respiratory Disorders
Your Child's Asthma: Avoiding Triggers
Your Child's Asthma: Flare-ups
Your Child's Asthma: How Severe Is It?
Your Child's Asthma: Nebulizer Treatments
Your Child's Asthma: Peak Flow Meters, Oximeters, and Spirometers

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.