Pediatric Allergist and Asthma Specialist Questions and Answers
At The Allergy & Asthma Center your asthma specialist’s goal is to control your child’s asthma symptoms and to allow him or her to live, play, and sleep without limitations. For more information, please call us or book an appointment online. We serve patients from Lawrenceville GA, Atlanta GA, Conyers GA, Suwanee GA, Duluth GA, Grayson GA, Decatur GA, Brookhaven GA, Lithonia GA and Covington GA.
Asthma is one of the most common medical problems in childhood. According to statistics from the National Institutes of Health and the National Center for Health Statistics, asthma affects over six million children under the age of eighteen and is the third leading cause of pediatric hospitalizations. The direct medical costs of this condition have exceeded eleven billion dollars and the indirect costs (lost productivity of parents, for example) add another five billion in costs. Childhood deaths from Asthma are rare, but over four thousand people in the United States die each year from this disease. Allergy specialists play a vital and crucial role in treating childhood Asthma, and more importantly, preventing asthma symptoms.
What are the signs and symptoms of asthma in children?
Asthma usually presents within the first few years of life. It commonly has its onset associated with an upper respiratory tract infection which may be caused by a variety of viruses, including the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Children often present with the most prominent symptom being coughing, although wheezing and difficulty breathing may be present. Frequently, asthma symptoms are worse at night, and they can be precipitated or made worse with play/exertion, or emotions such as crying or laughter. Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing are also common symptoms and may occur ten to fifteen minutes after exercise or play begins. If there is obstruction to breathing, small children may have flaring of the nostrils and some asthmatics will speak in short sentences or become agitated during episodes. It is important to note that many asthmatics, especially children, may not recognize or report the signs of an asthma attack until they become quite severe.
What triggers asthma?
Upper respiratory tract infections, most frequently the common cold, are common triggers of asthma episodes in young children. Allergies also play an important role in asthma attacks and in their chronic symptoms. Common allergens include dust, dust mites, cat and dog dander, mold, cockroach, and seasonal pollens. Children with asthma are particularly susceptible to second-hand cigarette smoke. Research has shown tobacco smoke directly correlates with wheezing early in life, as well as sick visits to the doctor and hospitalizations. Poor air quality, strong odors such as household cleaners, and other airborne irritants play a role in many asthma exacerbations in young children.
How does your asthma specialist diagnose a child with asthma?
Many children are diagnosed early in life with “Reactive Airways Disease (RAD) or “Recurrent Bronchitis”. It will be necessary for your allergist to take a detailed history of a child’s symptoms, perform a physical exam, and their response to medications in order to establish or confirm the diagnosis of asthma. Chest x-rays are sometimes helpful in ruling out other causes of wheezing. The allergist will also use pulmonary function testing to help decide on the diagnosis and the severity of a child’s asthma. Pulmonary function testing involves the patient blowing into a computer and can be used in children usually by the time they are over five or six years old. Allergies often play a role in asthma for young children and your allergist may use allergy skin testing in the office to dust mites, mold, pollen, etc in order to help decide on the diagnosis. Based on this information, your allergist will then recommend a comprehensive treatment plan for your child with the goal of reducing or eliminating asthma symptoms.
How to treat asthma in children
Your asthma specialist’s goal is to control your child’s asthma symptoms and to allow him or her to live, play, and sleep without limitations. A peak flow meter may be recommended as well as an asthma action plan. Often times the specialist will educate parents on the proper use of inhalers, spacer devices such as the aerochamber and nebulizers. Reliever medications such as beta agonists may be prescribed. For chronic symptoms, controller, or asthma preventative medications such as inhaled steroids on leukotriene blockers are often used. Your asthma specialist follows specific guidelines set forth by the National Institutes of Health for young children with asthma. Prevention or further control of symptoms is helped by avoiding allergens and other airborne irritants, such as cigarette smoke and air pollution.