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Childhood Asthma

In children, asthma is an allergic reaction to extrinsic triggers such as pollen, catching a cold, or other respiratory infections, in which the lungs and airways become easily inflamed when subjected to certain triggers.


Childhood asthma can cause daily symptoms that might interfere with daily activities like playing sports, school, and sleep. Sometimes, a child with unmanaged asthma might encounter dangerous asthma attacks.


Childhood asthma isn't different from adult asthma in terms of the allergic reaction mechanism, but children face different challenges. Unfortunately, asthma is not a curable disease, and symptoms can continue throughout a person's lifetime. But if they receive the right treatment, symptoms can be kept under control and prevent further harm to growing lungs.




Commonly observed childhood asthma signs and symptoms include:


  1. Frequent coughing that worsens when the child suffers a viral infection, happens during sleep or is triggered by exercise or cold air
  2. A whistling or wheezing sound while breathing out
  3. Shortness of breath
  4. Chest congestion or tightness
  5. Trouble sleeping due to shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing
  6. Delayed recovery or bronchitis after a respiratory infection
  7. Fatigue, because of poor sleep


Asthma signs and symptoms may be different in different children, and they tend to get worse or better over time. Sometimes the only pointer that can be seen in a child, could be a lingering cough or chest congestion




Even though the causes of childhood asthma have not yet been fully understood, some factors thought to be responsible include:

  1. An inherited tendency to develop allergies such as a parent with asthma might lead to their child facing the same issue.
  2. Some types of airway infections at a very young age might lead to hypersensitivity towards certain triggers.
  3. Exposure to environmental factors, such as cigarette smoke or other air pollution at a very early age. 




Childhood asthma often goes undiagnosed in infants but with age, they start showing symptoms that can help to diagnose the condition in older children. Doctors determine whether a child is asthmatic using factors such as the child's medical history, symptoms, physical examination, and results of certain tests.


  1. Medical history and symptom description: The healthcare provider will collect reports of a child’s history of breathing problems, a family history of asthma, allergies, a skin condition called eczema, or other lung diseases. 
  2. Physical exam: During the physical examination, doctors will monitor the child's heart and lung functions.
  3. Tests: The doctors might recommend a chest X-ray and pulmonary function (lung) tests, to measure the amount of air in the lungs inhaled and the rate at which it is exhaled. These results will be used to determine the severity of asthma. Children younger than 5 are usually not able to undergo pulmonary function tests, so doctors depend solely on history, symptoms, and physical examination for diagnosis.


To help identify particular asthma triggers, other tests, including allergy skin testing and blood tests, may be required.




Healthcare providers develop a care plan called an "Asthma Action Plan,” which is customized according to the child’s family history and severity of asthma, which describes:

  • When and how your child needs asthma medication?
  • What to do when asthma worsens?
  • When to seek emergency care?


Following the “Asthma Action Plan” religiously is important for the successful control of asthma. Usually, asthma medications are safe for adults and, older children as well as toddlers and younger children. But inhaled medications have to be different, and based on the child's age and ability, a different delivery device may be required.


If your infant or child has asthma symptoms requiring treatment with a rescue inhaler (a bronchodilator, such as albuterol or levalbuterol) more than twice a week, they may be prescribed a daily controller therapy (such as an anti-inflammatory medication).




Along with medications, careful prevention of asthma triggers is the best way to deal with childhood asthma.


The following precautions should be taken:

  1. Limit exposure to asthma triggers
  2. Don't allow smoking around your child
  3. Encourage your child to be active
  4. Ensure to check in with your doctor regularly
  5. Help your child maintain a healthy weight
  6. Keep heartburn under control by maintaining a healthy diet





Childhood asthma is the same as adult asthma, but children often have different symptoms. This is also referred to as "paediatric asthma" by doctors.


When your child has asthma, their lungs and airways can easily become inflamed when they catch a cold or are exposed to pollen. The symptoms may make it difficult for your child to perform daily activities or sleep. An asthma attack can sometimes necessitate a trip to the hospital.

Medanta Medical Team
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