It's a common childhood disease but often remains undiagnosed. Here's how to deal with asthma in children.

Asthma is a common chronic childhood disease, yet many parents know little about it. In children, asthma causes the air passages in the lungs to react to adverse conditions (e.g. allergens in air or food, viral infections, pollution). They become swollen and narrow, resulting in difficulty in breathing and wheezing. This can occur during a seasonal change or all through the year.

Causes

In some cases, asthma can be genetic. There are various environmental factors that trigger this condition such as house dust mite, dust like wheat dust/rice dust/house dust, pollutants like cigarette smoke or other emissions, chemicals (like glue, felt tips, sprays) and pollens/moulds. A child may also have associated allergic rhinitis and sinusitis that should also be treated for full control of asthma symptoms.

Every attack causes more lung pipe swelling and damage. Thus, early recognition of symptoms and appropriate treatment is required. Treatment includes bronchodilators (Syrups and inhalers) to relieve symptoms immediately and inhaled steroids (via spacers with puff inhalers and nebulisers) to decrease lung pipe swelling.

Parents should also be aware of these myths and not pay attention to them:

Use of medicines in the form of puff can weaken child's immunity or lung function

Food like banana, rice, curd or milk products increase cough or sputum

Childhood asthma is taboo and medicines become a habit or halt growth

Regular check-up

Asthma can affect a child as young as one year old. However, studies show that for every five diagnosed asthmatics there are four undiagnosed ones. Asthma is more likely to be missed or under diagnosed in children who have cough without wheezing and shortness of breath. Thus, it becomes important for parents to ensure regular preventive health check ups for their children.

Symptoms

A child suffering from asthma can have repeated episodes of

Cough

Sneezing

Chest congestion or difficulty in breathing

Nose block or discharge

Noisy breathing o breathing via the mouth

Skin, eyes or nose itching

Post-cough vomiting

What you can do

If there is a family history of asthma, the child should be exclusively breastfed till six months and till infancy. Breast milk has protective and immunological factors that help resist asthma.

Avoid furry toys, heavy carpets, curtains at home.

Avoid exposure to cigarette smoke.

Avoid junk and deep fried foods.

Avoid contact with anyone who has cold/ cough.

Keep home and surroundings free from plants, dust and insects.