Dr. Trina Blythe is a pediatrician at Way to Grow Pediatrics on the campus of Progress West Hospital. You can schedule an appointment with her by calling 636.928.WELL.
Medically speaking, what is asthma?
Asthma is a chronic medical condition that affects the lungs and breathing. It consists of three basic components:
- An overproduction of mucus and phlegm
- Inflammation of the airways that involve the lungs
- A constriction of those airways
The airway inflammation is brought on by things like infection, allergies and environmental pollutants and then the constriction is a response to that inflammation and that is a tightening of the muscles that line the airways and then that brings on asthma exacerbation or asthma attacks so to speak. It is actually fairly common, six million children in the United States has asthma and hat boils down to one in 12 children under the age of 18 or two to three children in an average classroom of maybe 20 to 30. It is a leading cause for emergency room visits. It is the top three causes of hospital visits and about 150 to 200 children die from asthma every year.
Are there changes we can make in our homes to make a child’s asthma better?
If a parent has a child with asthma, there are several changes that might be helpful.
Dust, mold and mildew are common triggers for asthma so making sure your home is free of those things is important, running an air purifier with a hepa filter in a child’s room would be helpful. Do not smok in the home because smoke is common trigger for airway inflammation even in people who don’t have asthma. Keep pets out of the child’s room especially if they have allergies. And, avoid using strong chemicals or strong with strong fumes as they are also common triggers.
Now what about sports? Can a child play sports if he or she has asthma?
Yes absolutely and in fact we encourage children with asthma to play sports. If a child is unable to play sports, it means their asthma is not well controlled and so their medication may need to be tweaked. A child who has well controlled asthma should be able to participate in sports just like their peers.
You often see and hear about inhalers. What exactly does that do for the child or anybody with asthma?
There are two types of inhalers. The first type is called a rescue inhaler and that contains a medication called Albuterol. Albuterol relaxes the smooth muscles that line those airways so when we talked about that constriction of the airways before basically making it harder for the child to breath. Albuterol relaxes those muscles and opens up the airways so that the child can get more air in and out of their lungs.
The second type of inhaler is called a controller and that contains an inhaled steroid and that reduces the inflammation of the airways so basically opening up the airways in a different way but on a more long term basis to help improve air flow in and out of the lungs.
Parents can’t be around their children 24/7. What can a parent do or how can you help your child manage asthma when they are at school?
The best way to handle asthma at school is through communication. The school nurse and the child’s teacher should both know that your child has asthma and there is something called an asthma action plan that is written up by the doctor that is treating the asthma and that explains the child’s triggers, the child’s treatment, when to give the medicine, how often to give the medicine, why to give the medicine and it also lists the types of symptoms that the child will be experiencing. It is very important for the child’s teacher to know if a particular child has asthma and they start to cough in the middle of the class then this might be their asthma flaring up and then they would know to send the child to the nurse. Communication is key.