Asthma is a chronic* disease of the airways in the lungs. In asthma, the airways are sensitive and always a little swollen.
When asthma gets worse, the inside of the airways become more swollen and make extra mucous and the muscles on the outside of the airways tighten.The symptoms of asthma are cough, wheeze (whistling noise in the chest), feeling short of breath and chest tightness.
*chronic means it is always there, even when there are no symptoms.
How do you get Asthma?
You can not catch asthma from another person.
A child may get asthma if:
a parent, brother or sister have asthma or allergies
the child has eczema or other allergies
Some early childhood chest infections may help to “turn on” asthma.
Exposure to tobacco smoke early in life causes more asthma and allergies.
To diagnose asthma, your doctor will ask questions about:
when the problem first began
how often breathing problems occur
how long problems last
how your child looks when he/she is having trouble breathing
what seems to cause the symptoms (eg. just colds)
if you notice symptoms at night
if there are symptoms with activity
whether the child had to go to the hospital for symptoms
medicines that have been used to treat symptoms and if they worked
Your doctor will examine the child’s nose, chest and skin, listen to the lungs and chest using a stethoscope and ask older children to breathe out hard and long so any wheeze can be heard
Your doctor may also:
do a breathing test (spirometry) in older children to help confirm whether the child has asthma
try some asthma medicine to see if it helps the symptoms, which can help make the diagnosis
do other special breathing tests (eg. exercise challenge test)
refer you to an asthma specialist for more tests (eg. allergy testing)
do a chest x-ray to rule out other causes for symptoms (eg. pneumonia)
What do I need to do?
- Keep a record of when symptoms happen and how long they last.
- Try to identify what causes the asthma symptoms.
- Know how and when to use any asthma medicines your child is given.
- Work with your doctor to form a treatment plan.
- Regular follow-ups with the child’s doctor are important to determine if medicines are working.