Between seasonal and food allergies, it’s normal to worry if other things like asthma have the potential to affect your child. It’s possible that this stems from your own childhood diagnosis or a family history of asthma. According to the Asthma and Allergy Academy of America, around 20 million adults have it, along with 5.1 million children under the age of 18.
The reality is that asthma is considered one of the most common lung diseases in children. Since it is considered a chronic disease, those who are diagnosed with it often receive treatment plans to help them manage it. Based on the severity of asthma, one’s treatment plan can vary.
At The Everymom, we know first hand how common it can be since some of us were either diagnosed with it at a young age or have children navigating it now. As alarming as it can be to know asthma affects 1 in 12 children, we spoke with two pediatricians Dr. Timothy Porter of Modern Pediatrics and Dr. Divina Lopez to help provide you with some answers to common questions about asthma as well as advice about navigating this chronic illness.
What are symptoms that may point to asthma?
Every asthma case varies from patient to patient. In fact, Dr. Porter said pediatricians and pulmonologists are hesitant to diagnose a young child with it before the age of 6.
Be as it may, there is something known as the “atophic march,” otherwise known as “marching through the symptoms of atophy,” that Dr. Porter and Dr. Lopez said pediatricians will pay attention to. This triad involves the following:
- If a child develops atopic dermatitis or eczema within the first 2 years of life, especially within the first year, they are at a higher risk of developing asthma.
- A presence of eczema can then lead to food or seasonal allergies.
- From there, if it’s determined the child has a family history of asthma, this puts them at a higher risk.
Are seasonal allergies an indicator that asthma will be present in young children?
Dr. Porter and Dr. Lopez both agreed that seasonal allergies are not an indicator that a young children will develop asthma. Specifically, Dr. Porter wanted parents to know that children under the age of 6 are more susceptible to developing cold viruses.
“Unless a fever is present, it’s hard to tell the different between an allergy and a cold virus,” Dr. Porter said.
Symptoms of seasonal allergies are similar to cold viruses because “they can appear in the form of itchy eyes, a runny nose, and sneezing,” according to Dr. Lopez. Both pediatricians mentioned that since younger children’s immune systems are still developing, children’s bodies need to see an allergen over several seasons before it develops a reaction to it.
If parents are concerned about wheezing in their children, Dr. Porter said it’s possible for them to outgrow it and not have asthma. Aside from a viral cold, he said exercise or exposure to cigarette smoke can also trigger wheezing.
When should parents consult with their child’s pediatrician if they suspect asthma is present?
Dr. Porter and Dr. Lopez said parents should immediately consult their children’s pediatrician if they have a concern about their health at any time. Since asthma is a chronic condition, Dr. Porter said a test known as a “spirometry can be conducted.”
Spirometry involves the child wearing a nose clip over their nose while they blow into a mouthpiece connected to a computer. The purpose of this is to see how well the child’s lungs are functioning.
Because it’s recommended for children who are at least 6 years old, Dr. Porter said pediatricians are hesitant to diagnose children younger than 6 with asthma.
What parents can do is take note of the frequency of their child’s wheezing and go over it with their child’s pediatrician. If asthma is suspected and cannot be treated within the pediatrician’s office, Dr. Lopez said pediatricians will refer parents to a pulmonologist or an asthma and allergy specialist.
Editor’s Note: Always seek the advice of your child’s pediatrician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
How can a pediatrician, pulmonologist, or asthma and allergy specialist work together to manage a young child’s asthma?
While a pulmonologist or asthma and allergy specialist can formally diagnose asthma in a young child, Dr. Porter and Dr. Lopez wanted parents to know they will continuously work with the child’s pediatrician to help manage it. “It’s important for parents to remember that their child’s pediatrician is essentially the ‘home’ medical base,” Dr. Porter said. This means they will receive direct notes from a referred specialist about the “prescribed treatment plan and if there is a change in the child’s severity,” to Dr. Lopez said.
How can parents help manage asthma at home?
Dr. Lopez said that “keeping your child well-controlled is the goal.” Parents will receive a treatment plan that has been put together by the specialist and pediatrician as well as any notes that cover what may trigger their child’s asthma flare-ups. Dr. Porter noted that parents should monitor how often their child needs their rescue inhaler, usually albuterol, and if their dependency on it is increasing or decreasing. If there is a change in the former or latter, parents need to discuss it with their child’s pediatrician. An increased usage can lead to more asthma exacerbation (flare-ups) and, eventually, hospitalization.
Dr. Porter stressed that parents need to be willing to ask questions and advocate for themselves as well as their child. Since there are different medications for asthma, the directions for usage will not be the same. Certain medications prevent flare-ups while others treat them. A lot of children are on controller asthma medication, which requires everyday use for preventative measures. On the other hand, the rescue inhaler is used to treat the flare-ups that do occur.
Because young children cannot advocate for themselves, it’s up to parents to do so on their behalf. It can be scary, especially if you don’t feel well-versed in medical jargon, but Dr. Porter implored parents to never be afraid to contact their child’s pediatrician. He said most pediatricians like to tell parents, “no question is too silly to ask.” It shows that parents are concerned and want to fully understand their child’s health.