Release Date: 2/24/2012
How to help your child avoid asthma attacks
Dr. Busch, a family practitioner, practices at Kirkwood Family. For a referral to any St. Anthony's physician, call 314-ANTHONY (268-4669) or 1-800-554-9550.
Asthma affects some 17 million Americans, a third of them children. Each year, children younger than 18 years of age account for nearly 48 percent of emergency department visits and nearly 35 percent of the hospitalizations due to asthma. Asthma accounts for more hospitalizations of children and more missed days of school than any other chronic illness.
If your child wheezes, coughs and has trouble breathing he or she may have asthma.
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that causes breathing passages to be extra sensitive. When exposed to certain “triggers,” these airways may become red, swollen and filled with mucus, narrowing them and making it harder for the air to pass through. The muscles around the airways can spasm and squeeze tighter, leaving less room for the air to pass through.
If you think your child may have asthma, visit your doctor for a full investigation of the symptoms. If the diagnosis is asthma, your child may be treated with two types of medications – one to prevent attacks and one to treat attacks when they happen. Some asthma medications are taken orally and some are taken through an inhaler.
Children with a family history of allergic diseases or those who live in an area with high levels of air pollution are more likely to have asthma. Additionally, children who grow up in a home with mold, dust or tobacco smoke have a greater chance of having asthma.
You can help your child avoid asthma attacks by minimizing irritants that can trigger an attack, such as:
- Tobacco or other smoke
- Pet dander and some insects
- Some foods and food preservatives
- Some perfumes or spray-on deodorants
- Certain medications, including aspirin or ibuprofen
- Air pollution
Other triggers may be exercise, change in temperature, viruses, respiratory infections and heartburn.
To avoid outdoor allergens, keep your windows closed and use an air conditioner in the summer. Keep your child indoors in hot, humid weather or when allergen counts are high. If being outside in these conditions can’t be avoided, have your child take a shower and change clothes when he or she comes in, to eliminate the pollen.
If your child’s allergen lives indoors, there also are steps you can take to minimize the problem. If you keep a pet, wash and brush it every week and keep it out of the bedroom and off the furniture. To eliminate dust mites, remove carpets and feather pillows from the child’s room, wash bedding in hot water every week and place an airtight cover over the mattress and pillow. Dust and vacuum at least once a week and keep the bedroom free of clutter and stuffed animals, which can collect dust. Change the filter on your heating and cooling system frequently. To control mold, clean and air out bathrooms, kitchens and basements often and keep the humidity level below 50 percent.
Asthma cannot be cured, but it can be controlled. There is a better chance of controlling asthma if it is diagnosed early and treatment is begun right away. With the help of your doctor, the right medications and a few preventative measures, you can make sure your child stays active and healthy.
Dr. Busch, a family practitioner, is a member of St. Anthony’s Physician Organization. She practices at Kirkwood Family Medicine, 10296 Big Bend Blvd., 314-543-5943. For a referral to any St. Anthony’s physician, call 314-ANTHONY (268-4669) or 1-800-554-9550.
For information, please call our Health Access Line at 314-ANTHONY (268-4669) or 800-554-9550 or visit find a physician online.
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