Children are the most precious gift that parents ever have. That’s why when children are suffering from a minor ailment, parents try to consult a doctor in order to bring the child back to normalcy. So in this week’s Health Capsule we focus on the most shared disease among children; asthma. It is a known fact that asthma affects both the young and old alike. In other words in any stage of life, one can suffer from asthma. But with regard to children, it is a different matter. Since children cannot verbally express the real symptoms of their illness, the situation can be worse. Therefore as a parent, your responsibility is to keep an eye on the slightest change that the child shows.
What is asthma?
Health Capsule was able to contact Consultant Paediatrician at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children, Dr. Deepal Perera to further discuss about Asthma and on how the disease could affect a child’s health. According to him, asthma is a chronic air way obstruction disease. “When a child is diagnosed with asthma it is interpreted as childhood asthma. It is obvious that the human respiratory system performs the role of carrying air in and out. But in asthma, exhalation is difficult; a process that involves air being carried into the lungs and breathed out. With asthma, a child finds it difficult to breath because of problems associated with the air way. Asthma is the lack of exhalation and as a result a child tries to breathe faster. In that way, the oxygenated level of a child rises and as a result a child’s accessories muscles such as intercostal muscles become active.
The speciality of childhood asthma is that when the child reaches the age of 12 or 13 years this condition normally subsides. But if the child is exposed to provoking factors of asthma, the disease might continue to prevail” Dr. Perera said. According to the doctor, if the condition worsens, the patient is vulnerable to a severe asthma attack. During a severe asthma attack, both inhalation and exhalation become difficult.
Asthma is a multi-factorial disease. Fundamentally there are two grounds for childhood asthma, which can be characterised as genetic and environmental background.
1. Family history or genetic background- The family history has a countless influence on childhood asthma. It is evidently proved that parents’ genes pass on to their children, so if a child has a family history of asthma, it naturally passes to the child.
2. Environmental background- The major portion of asthma is in the environmental background. This includes many factors such as exposure to dust and vapours, smoking, drug allergies and also exposure to animals. Let’s looks at some of these factors in detail.
- Exposure to dust and vapour- This is the prominent cause for asthma disease. Since we are living in an industrialised era, each and every day we are exposed to dust and vapour. So your child inhales all these and as a result gradually becomes a victim of childhood asthma.
- Smoking- Smoking is another very imperative negative factor of asthma. Although a child doesn’t engage in smoking, they play the role of a second smoker when they are near a smoker. You may not take these minor factors seriously, but they eventually become a great threat to the child’s life.
- Exposure to animals- A small child can easily be fond of animals such as cats and dogs. But it will be a great menace to a child’s life, when he or she constantly spends time with such animals; specially with cats and dogs. Pet dander is not good for the child.
Smoke emitting from fire and drug allergies are other factors that could trigger childhood asthma.
How to recognise childhood asthma?
As a parent your foremost responsibility is to take care of the child’s health. Symptoms of asthma can vary from child to child. But if your child is continually suffering from symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, parents should take serious note of such conditions. According to Dr. Perera, the major symptom of asthma is coughing. Night time coughing is a major indicator of childhood asthma. Also, if the child coughs while engaging in any physical activity such as running, it can be categorised as another symptom of asthma. Wheezing on the other hand, is another negative aspect of asthma. “Wheezing is only one episode in bronchial asthma. Shortness of breath is also another visible symptom of childhood asthma. If your child complains of minor chest pain, that may be the beginning of childhood asthma. Also, if your child starts wheezing when exposed to the above mentioned factors, it is the best time to seek medical advice” he said.
Can asthma be cured forever?
When inquired about ‘curing’ asthma, he said that the disease can be ‘controlled’. If any child is suffering from childhood asthma, the only thing that can be done is to control the triggering factors of asthma. “For the treatment of asthma in children, doctors prescribe the use of inhalers and other suitable drugs according to the phase of childhood asthma. If the child is suffering from an acute attack of asthma, doctors may instruct the patient to opt for the long-term use of inhalers” Dr. Perera added.
Message to parents
Children differ from one another. They have their own characteristics. According to the doctor, “parents panic when inhalers are prescribed for children suffering from asthma. Parents assume that it is prescribed for long-term use. Simply they don’t understand their child’s health condition. Because if the child has a severe asthma condition, doctors treat them accordingly. So as parents, you must understand the state of your child’s health and take necessary initiatives accordingly” Dr. Perera concluded.