Asthma: Information for patients and families (The Primary School)
Information for patients and families
Content Reviewers:Rishi Desai, MD, MPH
Contributors:Tanner Marshall, MS, Evan Debevec-McKenney
Asthma is a health problem that can make it hard to breathe.
This can be very frustrating and scary. For kids, it can make them miss a lot of school.
But - if you know what to do, asthma can be controlled.
With the help of parents, teachers, nurses, and doctors, the good news is that children with asthma can live healthy, active lives.
They can go to school, play sports, play the trumpet--or whatever they love to do!
When you breathe, air moves from your nose or mouth into your lungs by passing through small tubes, called airways.
People with asthma have trouble breathing because these airways get narrower, making it hard for air to move in and out.
Let’s take a closer look at the airways inside the lungs.
One reason that asthma makes it hard to breathe is that it causes a lot of irritation and swelling, making the walls of the airways get thick.
The muscles around the airways also get irritated and squeeze, making them even more narrow.
With-- asthma, the irritation also leads to more mucus, which can clog the airways.
Breathing with asthma can feel like breathing through a thin straw - it is hard to move air in and out, and can be very tiring.
Asthma is different for everyone.
The most common symptoms are coughing, chest tightness, getting tired easily, and wheezing.
Wheezing is a high-pitched whistling sound that comes from the air trying to get in and out of the lungs through narrow airways.
In some children, cough may be the only symptom, and may increase at night or while napping, making it hard to sleep.
Some people with asthma have symptoms almost every day.
Others have symptoms once every few months.
But asthma is a chronic disease, which means it never really goes away, so people with asthma should always have their medications ready.
Sometimes, asthma symptoms can suddenly get worse.
This is called an asthma attack.
During an asthma attack, it can be so hard to breathe that it is hard to talk.
If a child is having an asthma attack, you might be able to see them using muscles in their neck, or between the ribs, to help breathe.
Severe asthma attacks are dangerous, require medicine, and may require going to the hospital!
Talk to your doctor, so you know what to do.
An asthma trigger is something that makes your asthma symptoms start up or get worse.
Everyone has different triggers, but a common one is cigarette smoke.
Cigarette smoke can be harmful even when not in the air because it can get caught in clothes and furniture and still trigger asthma.
Other causes inside the house can be things like dust, pets, cockroaches, mold, strong perfumes, and cleaning products.
Triggers outside the house can be things like cold air, pollen, grass, and air pollution.
Asthma can also be triggered by getting sick with a cold, flu, or other illness.
Knowing your triggers and staying away from them can help you control your asthma.
Make sure that nobody in the home smokes, and try to keep your home free of cockroaches and mold.
On heavy air pollution days keep children with asthma indoors, when possible.
Avoid standing too close to cars or buses when their engines are running.