Asthma is a disease that causes the airways to inflame at the onset of an attack and result in a narrowing of airways. This results in breathlessness and if left unattended a child can die of suffocation. It is caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors.
Many scientific studies have shown that air pollution is the major cause of asthma in children. Children living in cities are more susceptible. Noxious fumes of Sulphur and Nitrogen help trigger conditions in the body that result in the onset of the disease. It has also been found that the condition lies dormant in the genes and hence, the selectivity of the disease.
Related: Asthma Caused By Allergies
If an expectant mother is a habitual smoker then the chances of the baby born with the disease are very high. Since babies have sensitive immune systems, an attack triggered by allergens can prove fatal.
Early respiratory infections can result in the onset of the disease later. Recent research has thrown up a surprising fact that goes contrary to the belief in the importance of hygiene. The theory states that due to the emphasis on hygiene, particularly in the west, many young children today do not have the same type of environmental exposure and infections as their previous generations. The immune system, therefore, is not conditioned properly to deal with all kinds of allergies. And in the high-risk groups are those children with family members who have allergies.
Anything in the environment that can cause an immune system reaction can trigger an attack in an asthma child. Mainly dust, pollen, and termites are the major allergens. Since these are present in plentiful quantities, it often proves very difficult for an allergic person to go about his normal life.
Related: Allergy Induced Asthma
Symptoms of Asthma In Children
The symptoms of acute asthma include wheezing and a feeling of severe chest congestion. Wheezing does not always occur if the attack is severe and the pathway is highly constricted resulting in no air coming out. Coughing is another symptom and it produces clear phlegm. Stridor, a high-pitched sound due to obstruction of the upper air pathway is also a symptom of acute asthma and this may occur when wheezing is absent. Sometimes attacks in children are so severe that medication has almost no effect. Such situations are medical emergencies and warrant attention.
Classification of attacks based on the periodicity of occurrence has a bearing on the signs and symptoms. If the attack is mild and occurs irregularly, then there may be no tell-tale symptoms. Attacks in children which occur not more than three or four times a month are of this type. As the period of attacks increases more than thrice a week, there may be wheezing and tightness of the chest. The symptoms can also occur during the nighttime. When the attacks turn persistent and severe, the symptoms may be there for a longer period of time and may require a course of medication and not simply relief medication like bronchodilators.
During a severe attack in children, the skin color can turn bluish. The phenomenon is called cyanosis. This is due to a lack of oxygen in the blood. When the airways are constricted then the body’s requirement of oxygen is not met. Deoxygenated blood is blue in color and is pumped throughout the body.
A severe attack in a child can also impair the senses temporarily. There is confusion and daze while the child can be left feeling numb. There is also an increased sense of anxiety and decreased alertness. Excessive sweating from efforts to respire can also be spotted in case of a severe asthma attack. There can also be a pain in the chest and the child can lose consciousness.
Episodes of asthma attacks can be life-threatening because they can occur with alarming regularity. The symptoms can weaken the pathways and result in infection. During asthma episodes, the heartbeat increases, and the flow pattern of blood may change. On chest examination, the honchos sound produced by the lungs can be heard. Sometimes labored breathing can cause a depression between the ribs which indicates the strain in muscles that aid respiration.
Related: Effective Treatment For Allergies
Asthma Treatment in Children
Asthma is triggered by allergies which can be treated with therapy for the immune system. These medications involve the use of corticosteroids for reducing inflammation of air pathways. Timely medication can go a long way in treating asthma.
Antihistamines are popularly used for allergy treatments. They are used to treat allergies that can cause asthma as well. Some of these can cause mucous formation which can obstruct the throat and hence those should not be used. Allergy immunotherapy also called Allergy Desensitization is done when an asthma attack is anticipated. The medication is injected into the blood directly. The chances of success are higher before the condition of asthma worsens. If the child doesn’t have any allergies then the treatment can also be done orally. This is most suited for children. Immunotherapy can reduce the need for further medication drastically.
If an attack is severe and the child doesn’t respond to medication then he warrants medical attention. In the emergency ward, first oxygen is given to make up for the loss due to the attack. Nebulizer treatment is then administered. Large doses of medication are delivered using nebulizers. Medication is converted to steam which makes its way through the child’s air pathways. Since the child usually is unable to make efforts to respire, this method can prove to be very useful.