Asthma for Children

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Signs & Symptoms

A lot of children get asthma. Asthma cuts down the air flow in the lungs. This makes it hard to breathe. These are all symptoms of asthma:


•  Chronic coughing.

•  Trouble breathing.

•  Tight feeling in the chest.

•  Wheezing.

(Note: Other things can cause wheezing, too. Something may be stuck in the throat or there may be an infection. Always tell the doctor if your child is wheezing.)


Asthma symptoms come and go. An asthma “attack” can be big or small. Asthma can get worse when your child is upset or worried. But it’s a real physical problem. A doctor should treat your child if he or she has asthma. Asthma runs in families. Children who have eczema or hay fever often have asthma, too. Asthma may be more common in children who live in houses with pets and tobacco smoke.


Asthma attacks can come on with:

•  Colds, flu, and other infections in the throat and lungs.

•  Breathing pollen from plants, mold, animal dander, dust, or smoke.

•  Sulfites. These are additions in some foods.

•  Taking some medicines, like aspirin.

•  Breathing cold air.

•  Exercising too hard.

•  Getting upset, angry, or “stressed out.”


The right asthma treatment depends on how bad the attacks are. It’s hard to treat asthma with medicines you buy without a prescription. Your child’s doctor should keep track of how your child is doing. The doctor may prescribe one or more medicines for your child’s asthma. Some kinds of medicines are for your child to take during an asthma attack. Other kinds are taken daily or as prescribed to help prevent asthma attacks. Medicines include:

•  Bronchodilators. These drugs open up the airways in the body. They come either as a spray or as something you swallow.

•  Drugs to help with swelling of the airways in the body. They come either as a spray, or as pills you swallow.

•  Drugs to help with chronic swelling of the airways in the body. They come as pills.

•  Peak flow meter. This is a device to monitor your child’s asthma at home.

•  Flu vaccine. This is given once a year.

Questions to Ask

Self-Care / Prevention

•  Don’t smoke or let your child smoke. Don’t allow smoking in the house.

•  Have your child drink a lot of water, juice, and other fluids. (Ask your child’s doctor how much fluid your child should have each day.)

•  Find out what triggers your child’s asthma. Get rid of things that bother your child at home, at school, and where he or she plays.

•  If you don’t have a dog, cat, or other pet, don’t get one. If you have a pet, keep it outside if you can. If not, don’t let it in your child’s bedroom.

•  Keep things your child is allergic to out of his or her bedroom.

•  Have your child sleep with no pillow or the kind the doctor says is O.K.

•  Cover your child’s mattress and pillow with a plastic cover or one that says allergen-free. Wash mattress pads in hot water every week.

•  Use throw rugs that can be washed often instead of carpets. Pollen, pet dander, mold, and dust mites collect in carpets. Use blinds and curtains that can be washed often, too.

•  Try not to have stuffed animals kept in your child's bedroom. Or have only one that can be washed. Wash it in hot water once a week.old, and dust mites collect in carpets. Use blinds and curtains that can be washed often, too.

•  If you can, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter and double-thickness bags. When you vacuum, have your child wear a filter mask over his or her nose and mouth.

•  Use air filters with your furnace and air-conditioning unit. Or use portable air cleaners to keep the air clean. Change or wash filters often. Keep the humidifier filter clean, if you use one. Use distilled (not tap) water in humidifiers and vaporizers.

•  Don’ t hang sheets and blankets outside to dry. Pollen can get on them.

•  It’s good for your child to do sports like swimming. But tell your child to stop exercising if he or she starts to wheeze.

•  When outdoors in cold weather, have your child wear a scarf around his or her mouth and nose. The scarf warms the air before your child breathes it in.

•  Don’t let your child eat foods or medicines that have sulfites. Shellfish, for example, often have sulfites. They bother many people with asthma.

•  Have your child sit up during an asthma attack. Don’t let your child lie down.

•  Don’t run out of your child’s asthma medicine. Keep the medicine handy. Have your child take it as soon as he or she starts to feel an attack.

•  Don’t give your child aspirin! Some people with asthma are allergic to aspirin. Use acetaminophen instead.

(Note: Aspirin and other medicines that have salicylates have been linked to Reye’s Syndrome, a condition that can kill.)

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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