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Asthma In Children

Frequently Asked Questions: Asthma In Children

Friday, March 16, 2012 - 17:25

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Here are some frequently asked questions related to asthma in children.

Q: My child really wants a pet. He doesn't seem allergic to pets, and skin tests show he's not allergic to dogs or cats. How about it?

A: In some cases, a dog or cat may seem to cause no asthma symptoms. But its presence may keep the child's airways slightly inflamed. This will set up the child for attacks brought on by other triggers, such as a cold or a change in the weather. In these cases, people may not realize that the pet is having an effect until they (or the pet) move away, and the asthma improves.

Q: How accurate are peak flow meters?

A: When used correctly, peak flow meters are excellent tools that reflect the state of the child's asthma - but you need to treat the device with respect. Keep it clean, use it as directed, check it frequently for damage, and it will give accurate measurements. However, remember that symptoms are just as important as numbers. In some cases, children can get a good peak flow "score" even when they are having symptoms. If that's the case, make a note of the numbers and talk to your doctor.

Q: What are the chances that a child will outgrow asthma?

A: It depends. Asthma usually gets much better in adolescence, so a child with mild asthma might have no symptoms as a teenager, and a child with serious asthma symptoms will have fewer problems as a teenager. However, in many cases the child's lungs may still be inflamed, as shown on lung function tests. In these cases, asthma may return in later life, usually in the 30's or 40's. Experts don't know why that is. But we do know that keeping a child's symptoms under good control should reduce the risk of problems in later life.

Q: Can inhaled steroids cause any problems with growth?

A: Inhaled steroids at low doses are well tolerated, but at higher doses they may slow a child's growth, especially in the early school years. In most cases, the rate of growth will speed up again when the steroid dose is lowered. If your child needs significant doses of inhaled steroids, it is important to consider the following points:

  • Severe asthma itself can affect the rate of growth.
  • Without steroids, your child may not be able to live a normal life, attend school regularly, and enjoy sports and games with the other children. Indeed, he or she may spend far too much time in the hospital or rushing to the emergency department.

In other words, it's a balancing act. Always discuss the dosage with the child's doctor, so you know what to expect - and what the alternatives may be.

Q: What are the most important things I can do to help improve my child's asthma?

A: Three important things you can do are:

  • Check the environment
  • Keep lines of communication open
  • Understand your child's treatment plan

In terms of the environment, removing a "trigger" from the child's environment can often do wonders. For example, even though a child can survive the presence of a cat by inhaling steroids to control asthma, he or she would be far better off if the cat went to another home. Generally speaking, the more "triggers" you can remove, and the less medicine your child has to take as a result, the better he or she will be.Good communication between you and your child, the child and the doctor, and you and the doctor, is essential. The three of you need to know what symptoms the child has and what brings them on - and that means talking to one other.

Q: Should we consider moving to a different climate?

A: Moving to a different climate will probably not help. Asthma is quite common in all parts of the country. Generally, families that do move to a new area find that asthma symptoms continue to occur often due to different triggers in the new environment.

Asthma In Children