Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases in children and affects between five and 10 percent of all children and is one of the leading causes for hospitalization and missed school days in children. It’s estimated that more than 6 million children in the US have asthma, and nearly half of those have had an asthma attack in the past year. Asthma is the third leading cause of hospitalization in children under the age of 15 and the leading cause of school absenteeism due to a chronic disease.

What Is Asthma?

Asthma is a disease that causes inflammation and swelling of the bronchial tubes resulting in obstruction of the bronchial tubes, making it more difficult to breathe. Every child may have asthma of different severity from mild to very severe.

Asthma Triggers

The inflammation seen in asthma is produced by a number of triggers. These include: allergies, infections, exercise, irritants and weather. Allergies are associated with approximately half of children with asthma. Infections, especially viral infections, may trigger asthma.

It is very important to have all children with asthma immunized for influenza. Over 80 percent of children with asthma have exercise-induced asthma, but nearly all children with asthma may participate in all sports if their asthma is properly controlled. Irritants including cigarette smoke and air pollution can be particular triggers for asthma. Weather changes, specifically cold air, may be a significant trigger for asthma.

Other Conditions Associated with Asthma

Children with asthma often have allergies and eczema. It is important to treat nasal allergy symptoms along with asthma because poorly controlled nasal allergies can trigger asthma. Also other diseases such as chronic sinus infections may make asthma worse.

There are other lung conditions that may appear to be asthma but are not. A complete lung evaluation may be necessary to make sure no other conditions are present that may need to be treated.

Asthma Treatment

The treatment of asthma consists of a comprehensive program including education, environmental control measures, lung function testing and medications. Compared to medications available in the past, there are now a number of new medications available that provide better control of asthma.

Recent advances in medications as well as new published national guidelines enable the majority of children with asthma to be controlled and participate in any sport or activity and minimize urgent visits or hospitalizations.

Austin Children’s Chest Associates provides a comprehensive asthma evaluation and management program. This includes any comprehensive pulmonary function testing that may be needed, as well as patient education and the newest medications available for asthma therapy.

Additional information on asthma may be obtained from the American Lung Association or on the Seton Family of Hospitals website under Asthma Services.