Study findings presented at the American Thoracic Society’s International Conference of 2010 stated that children who have severe asthma are 30 times more likely to develop adult chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD) as an adult as compared to children who do not suffer from asthma. The study was conducted at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia by Dr. Andrew Tai and colleagues on children born in 1957 who were followed until the age of 50. These findings raise the question of what parents can do now to help their asthmatic children so their chronic disease does not worsen as they grow older.
Childhood Asthma in America
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), asthma is the most common chronic disease in children and it is estimated that 5 million children under the age of 18 suffer from asthma. In most instances, children develop asthma around age 5 but asthma can also be present in younger children. Boys are more likely to develop asthma at a young age than girls, however by the teen years the numbers between boys and girls even out. Asthma is more common in African-American children than in white children and is more common in children who live in cities than those who live in suburban or rural areas. Asthma can be life-threatening when not treated properly and many children die each year from this disease. This is why it is important for parents to know what triggers their child’s asthma symptoms and understand the medications their child is taking. Managing childhood asthma can help to prevent children from developing COPD later in life.
Know what Triggers Your Child’s Asthma
Asthma attacks can be triggered by many different irritants including:
– Food and food additive allergies
– Household dust mites
– Animal hair
– Tobacco smoke
– Air pollution
– Changes in weather
– Cold air
– Viral infections
Every child is different and different irritants can trigger his asthma symptoms. It is important for parents to learn what triggers their child’s asthma so these irritants can be eliminated or managed as best as possible. If it is questionable as to what triggers your child’s asthma, your doctor may want your child to see an allergist to test him for allergies. Knowing the exact triggers can also help the doctor decide what medications, if any, are necessary to treat your child’s asthma.
One important fact to remember is secondhand smoke is responsible for up to 26,000 new cases of asthma in children and teens each year. Young children should never be exposed to secondhand smoke in order to reduce their risk of developing asthma in childhood or later in life as a teen or adult.
Understand Asthma Medications Your Child is Taking
An asthma attack occurs when one or more irritants cause the airways from the trachea to the lungs, the bronchi and the bronchioles, to become inflamed and constrict, narrowing the passages for air. In cases of mild asthma, the airways may clear out on their own but in the case of severe asthma, medication is generally needed to open up the blocked passages.
Asthma medication comes in two types – quick-relief and long-term control. Quick relief medications help to immediately relieve the symptoms of an asthma attack while long-term control medications help to reduce the risk of symptoms and severe asthma attacks over time. There are many kinds of each medication available in a variety of forms such as inhalers, pills and liquid. In cases of severe asthma, your child’s doctor may suggest the use of a long-term control medication as well as a quick-relief medication for sudden symptoms. Parents should understand how these medications work and ask about side-effects. However, using the medication early on is important. Dr. Andrew Tai, lead researcher of the Melbourne Asthma Study, believes that proper treatment of asthma early in childhood can help to reduce the risk of COPD later in life.
The goal in managing childhood asthma is to keep children healthy as they grow and help reduce their chance of developing other lung diseases later in life. By treating childhood asthma with the proper medications early on and removing irritants that trigger a child’s asthma attacks, parents can help keep their child’s lungs healthier into adulthood.
American Thoracic Society
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America