What is asthma?
Asthma is a chronic lung condition affecting tubes called airways. These tubes carry air in and out of the lungs. In a child with asthma, airways react to certain triggers, causing:
- The airways to swell
- Thick, sticky mucus to fill the airways
- The muscles that wrap around the airways to squeeze tight
In Georgia, about 1 in 10 children under age 18 has asthma. That rate is one of the highest in the nation. Asthma is the number one reason for admission to Children’s, and leads to more than half a million missed school days annually.
What are the signs and symptoms of asthma?
The sooner you know whether your child has asthma, the sooner you can seek help in managing it. Common asthma symptoms include:
- Cough with or without phlegm
- Shortness of breath that worsens with activity
- Chest pain, congestion or tightness
- Wheezing or whistling when exhaling
When asthma symptoms suddenly get worse, it’s called an asthma attack. Asthma attacks are caused when the airways in your child’s lungs are bothered by an asthma trigger. You, your child and everyone who cares for your child will need to know when to use quick relief medication and when to seek emergency help.
Signs that your child may be having an asthma attack include:
- Shortness of breath
- Continual coughing
- Skin between ribs or near neck that is pulling inward
- Bluish color to lips or fingernails
- Difficulty completing a sentence without taking a breath
What causes asthma attacks?
Asthma attacks are caused when the airways in your child’s lungs are bothered by an asthma trigger. Each child’s asthma triggers are different. It’s important to know your child’s asthma triggers so you can avoid them when possible.
Common asthma triggers include:
- Seasonal allergies
- Roaches and pests
- Air pollution
- Dust mites
- Pets and animals
- Exposure to violence
- Strong emotions and stress
Read our tip sheet and learn more about how to help your child avoid asthma triggers.
Asthma and allergies
Asthma and allergies are different conditions, but they often go hand-in-hand. Severe allergies can trigger an asthma attack.
The same substances that trigger your child's allergy symptoms can also cause asthma signs and symptoms. Common allergy-related triggers in Georgia are:
- Dust mites
- Pet dander
Some of these allergy and asthma triggers, such as pollen, are seasonal. Others can cause symptoms year-round. You can reduce your child’s symptoms by avoiding your child’s exposure to allergens whenever possible.
Do you suspect your child suffers from allergies along with asthma?
- Request allergy testing to help identify specific allergies.
- Keep all windows closed and use air conditioning during pollen season.
- Know when the pollen count is high and consider treating your child’s allergies before symptoms start.
Most treatments are designed to treat either asthma or allergies, but a few treatments help with both conditions. Ask your child's doctor for more information, and to see if allergy shots might help.