Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Asthma at a Glance

Monika Pis, PhD, CPNP

The school year has begun.  If your child has asthma, he may be at a higher risk for asthma flare-ups at this time. According to one study, in which over 80,000 asthma related hospital records of children 5 to 15 years old were analyzed over a period of 13 years, more children were hospitalized for asthma exacerbations in September than at any other time of the year (Johnston, et al., 2006). The high incidence of asthma attacks in September might be related to several factors: the season change with more mold spores floating in the air, colder weather, and exposure to other children at school. However, do not be fooled, as asthma might strike at any time. 

Asthma is a chronic lung disease and even though it is unpredictable, you can gain control over it by working together with your health care provider. Asthma should not prevent anybody from doing what he or she wants, should, or enjoys doing! So, if your child's asthma is out of control, establish a partnership with you health care provider to devise a treatment plan that will improve your child's quality of life! Do not let asthma control you. Become its master.

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs. The airways get inflamed, swell up, and get plugged up with mucus in response to various triggers. When inflammation is present, you may notice symptoms such as coughing or wheezing at night or with physical activity. Additionally, in response to asthma triggers, you may experience bronchoconstriction, which is the tightening of muscles around the airway. Asthma is a chronic disease. Therefore, it is present at all times even though you may be symptom-free at times. Also, asthma’s severity may vary depending on what triggers the symptoms.

Asthma triggers are things that provoke an asthma attack. Those triggers are different for different people. Therefore, it is very important to recognize what triggers your or your child’s asthma attacks, so that you can avoid the causes of your asthma exacerbations. Common triggers of asthma attacks are pollen and outdoor molds, dust, animal hair or dander, cockroaches, indoor molds, cigarette smoke, wood smoke, or strong odors. In addition, upper respiratory infections, exercise, and weather changes may cause an asthma attack. Always be aware of what triggers your asthma!

Asthma symptoms may range from coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, to difficulties breathing.

Children and adults with uncontrolled asthma cough at night. They also cough and/or run out of breath with physical activity and while laughing or crying and cannot keep up with their friends, get tired quicker than their peers, and may complain of chest tightness. Also, your asthma is not adequately controlled if you have a need to use your rescue inhaler, such as albuterol, more than twice a week. If any of this is true for you or your family members, talk to your health care provider as soon as possible.

According to the Center of Disease Control, there were 5.1 million children with asthma in the United States in 2004. In 2003, 3.2 million had an asthma attack. On average, 3 out ten children have asthma.

Asthma is one of the leading causes of missed days at school. In 2003, an estimated 12.8 million school days were missed due to asthma.

Asthma treatment in children younger than 18 years costs an estimated $3.2 billion a year.

Asthma is the third-ranking cause of hospitalizations among children younger than 15 years. 

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