What is asthma?

Asthma is a condition in which the small passageways in the lungs become inflamed and swollen. During an asthma attack, these passageways, called bronchi, become narrow. This makes it hard to get oxygen into the lungs. Asthma is not curable, but it is manageable. Most kids with asthma lead a normal life.

What causes asthma?

Asthma has several causes, including allergies, colds and other respiratory infections, cold air, cigarette smoke, exercise, stress and some medications.

Is asthma serious?

Yes. A severe asthma attack can be life-threatening.

Can I prevent asthma?

Asthma is not curable, but you can help control asthma attacks. By identifying what triggers an attack, you can help your child avoid potential illness.

How do I know if my child has asthma?

Children who have asthma may have a family history of asthma, frequent respiratory infections as a child, and be exposed to secondhand cigarette smoke and air pollution. Kids with asthma display the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing
  • Whistling or wheezing sounds when exhaling
  • Bouts of coughing or wheezing that are worsened by respiratory viruses such as colds or flu

How do I treat asthma?

Asthma can be managed. Most cases of asthma are treated with: ½ preventer medication, or ½ reliever medication, or a combination of the two. Preventers are medications taken each day that help prevent asthma attacks, and relievers are medications that relieve an attack in progress. Preventer and reliever medications contain different drugs and work in different ways on the lungs. Preventers are slow-acting medications, and relievers are fast-acting medications that open the airways quickly.

We’ve also got 8 tips for managing asthma the easy way.

Should I call the doctor?

You should schedule an appointment with your doctor if you suspect your child has asthma. If your child is being treated for asthma, but his symptoms appear to be getting worse, contact your doctor. You may need to switch medications and/or revise your treatment plan. Seek immediate medical help if your child is having an asthma attack and is not responding to medication.

What you need to know about asthma

  • Asthma is a condition in which the small passageways in the lungs become swollen and inflamed.
  • During an asthma attack, the passageways narrow, making it hard to breathe.
  • Identifying triggers can help your child avoid attacks.
  • Medications can help control asthma.
  • Severe asthma attacks can be life-threatening.

Written by Rebecca Stigall for Kidspot, New Zealand’s parenting resource for family health. Sources include Better Health Channel, NSW Health and Health Insite.

This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.

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