Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease, which affects the respiratory system by causing swelling and narrowing of the airways found in the lungs. The airways, also known as bronchial tubes act as pathways for air to flow in and out of the lungs. When talking about children, the disease is referred to as pediatric asthma. Despite its high prevalence rate among young children, pediatric asthma is not fatal if managed properly. Management of pediatric asthma entails seeking treatment, once a child is suspected to be suffering from asthma, avoiding/eliminating asthma triggers in children, and close monitoring of an asthmatic child. This paper discusses the symptoms of pediatric asthma, diagnosis of pediatric asthma as well as treatment and preventive methods of the disease.
Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease, which affects the respiratory system by causing swelling and narrowing of the airways found in the lungs (Pediatric Asthma, 2011). The airways, also known as bronchial tubes act as pathways for air to flow in and out of the lungs. When an individual suffers from asthma, these airways tighten up, causing swelling of the muscles surrounding them such that it becomes difficult for air to flow in and out of the lungs. This causes chest tightness, shortness of breath, coughing, and/or wheezing.
When talking about children, the disease is referred to as pediatric asthma. Pediatric asthma is a common cause of hospital admission and school absenteeism among children, especially those below the age of five years. According to the World Health Organization, the prevalence rate of pediatric asthma is increasing across the globe. Among all the cases of asthma, reported in the world, 34.6 percent are individuals under the age of 18. Every year, close to 250,000 asthma deaths cases are reported across the globe with the highest percentage of these deaths being children. In the United States, prevalence rate of pediatric asthma increased substantially between the years 1980 and 1996, with a plateau stage being reached in the year 2007 (9.1 percent, approximately 9.7 million children were suffering from asthma). Hospitalization and ED rates are normally high among the Latino and Black American children (Volpe et al., 2011).
According to Sharma and Bye (2011), various types of allergies in children are the major triggers of pediatric asthma. Some of these allergies (triggers) include animal hair/dander, cold air, dust, and mold, some medications such as aspirin, pollen, vigorous exercises, smoke, and chemical in food or in the air. Common symptoms of pediatric asthma are breath shortness, faster breathing, trouble in breathing out, and gasping for air. Other symptoms include night coughs, feelings of tiredness, tightness of the chest, wheezing: a whistling sound, made when one is breathing out, and dark bags under the eyes. In many cases, when breathing becomes more difficult, the skin of a child’s chest and the neck area may appear sunken (Sharma & Bye, 2011).
When a child suspected to be suffering from asthma is taken to a hospital, a doctor may conduct some tests in order to determine if the child is really suffering from asthma. The doctor can listen to the child’s lungs to detect asthma-related sounds. This is done using a device, known as peak flow meter, whereby a doctor asks a child to blow air in and out of his/her lungs. If the bronchial tubes are inflamed, the readings in the peak flow meter will drop. This will be an indication that the child is suffering from asthma. Other tests that a doctor can conduct include chest x-ray, lung function test, eosinophil (a type of white blood cells) count, or allergy testing (Sharma & Bye, 2011).
Once a child has been diagnosed with pediatric asthma, both the parent and the child’s pediatrician should develop a treatment plan for the child. A treatment plan for a child, suffering from asthma, should include details of how to avoid the identified triggers, check the symptoms, measure peak flow, administer medicines as well as when to raise an alarm in cases of serious attacks. It is important for a parent to inform the child’s teachers about the asthmatic condition of the child, and issue them with a copy of an asthma action plan in order to aid in monitoring the child’s condition and aid him/her in taking the medicines when at school.
A pediatrician can choose to prescribe long-term or quick relief medication to a child, depending on the type and pattern of asthma in a child. Long-term medication is usually taken on daily basis, even when a child is not experiencing asthma attacks. The aim of long-term asthma medication is to prevent occurrence of asthma symptoms. Such medications include leukotriene inhibitors such as Accolate; inhaled steroids such as Flovert; Cromolyn sodium; and Aminophylline (Volpe et al., 2011). On the other hand, quick relief medicines are those that are taken only when a child suffers asthma attack. These are usually prescribed to a child who does not suffer frequent attacks. Examples of quick relief asthma medicines include Xopenex, Ventolin, and Proventil (Volpe et al., 2011).
So far, there is no specific method of preventing pediatric asthma. However, parents can employ a number of preventive measures to reduce the number of asthma attacks in their children. One of these preventive measures is to avoid/eliminate asthma triggers. For instance, pets should be kept outdoors or away from children’s bedroom, avoiding smoking inside the house or allowing a child to be exposed to smokers, keeping the house and the child warm, fixing leaks to avoid growth of molds inside a house, and covering a child’s beddings with allergy proof material to reduce exposure to dust. Another preventive measure is to monitor a child’s asthma. For instance, a parent can purchase a peak flow meter and use it to determine if an attack is likely to occur (Volpe et al., 2011).
Pediatric asthma is not a fatal disease if managed carefully. An asthmatic child can live a normal life until early adulthood, when asthma symptoms start disappearing or reducing. However, if poorly managed, pediatric asthma can cause permanent lungs damage.