Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases your child could have, but can be effectively treated once it is properly diagnosed.
What are the Symptoms?
Presenting symptoms usually include wheezing (whistling sound when breathing in/out), coughing, chest tightness or shortness of breath. Common triggers are exercise, viral infections, environmental allergies (i.e. pollens, animals and molds), extreme temperatures or irritant exposures such as second-hand smoke, perfumes or strong odors. Undiagnosed asthma can lead to fatigue, missed school, frequent emergency-room visits and oral steroid use.
Treatment and Testing
An allergist can perform tests that will safely evaluate whether or not your child has asthma and then prescribe a customized treatment plan to help your child feel and function better. The asthma workup usually will include a thorough history and physical, a spirometry breathing test to measure lung volumes before and after an albuterol medication is given (to confirm hyper-reactive airways) and environmental allergy skin testing.
Medications to control asthma include short-acting bronchodilators like albuterol and daily controller medications such as montelukast (Singulair) or inhaled steroids.
Management of Asthma
Controlling allergy symptoms by avoiding triggers and using allergy medications and/or allergy immunotherapy (allergy shots) often will improve breathing symptoms, prevent asthma flares and improve the quality of life in allergic asthma. An asthma action plan will help clarify when to use the appropriate medications and when to seek further evaluation.