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What Is Asthma?

Asthma is a disorder of the airways of the lungs producing problems in normal may be administered—cromoglycate, or the bronchodilators, or theophyllin. The doctor will work out the best routine for your child. Today, there are various bronchodilators, and they are all good. Aerosol sprays can now rapidly cut short an attack. Salbutamol (“Ventolin”), currently one of the most popular, when inhaled into the airways will hasten relief. Other products are also used.

Asthma Symptoms

1. There will be loud, laboured, wheezy breathing.

2. The sufferer has difficulty in speaking and moving.

3. The sufferer is distressed and anxious.

4. Pallor and sweating are marked features.

5. Sometimes, in a severe attack, lack of oxygen leads to mental confusion.

What to Do in the Case of Asthma Attack

1. Sit the patient upright, with arms resting on a pillow, table or chair for support. Open windows, being careful that the patient is not subjected to draughts or chills.

2. In a severe attack seek medical help promptly, as the patient may have to be given oxygen.

3. If the patient has medication specifically prescribed for asthma, it should be given immediately.

4. Speak confidently and reassuringly to the patient, advising that help is on the way. Perhaps a warm drink may help to relieve the tension and fears.

Asthma Treatment

To help the patient easily obtain the full dose of medication, a device called a “spacer” may first receive the dose, which is then inhaled more slowly. These are very effective.

The drugs must not be used haphazardly or too frequently. Despite the fine film of mist the can imparts when the button is pressed, they are very potent drugs. Parental supervision is essential. The doctor’s instructions must be followed implicitly. If relief is not gained within a few minutes, this does not mean fresh sprays are required. Minimum time periods between successive doses are important to avoid overdosing. However, today, the tendency is for patients to under treat rather than over treat asthma.

Cortisone provided a major step forward in the treatment of asthma. With current methods it is being used much less, both in its original form, and its other derivatives, prednisone. prednisolone and beta-methasone. Many adverse side effects occurred with longterm use. But it played its part, and in certain instances is still used. Causing fluid retention, children often develop an odd-shaped appearance called “moon face.” Also, it caused the bones to stop growing, prematurely stunting growth. Many children on long-term steroids have switched to newer methods of therapy.

Other aerosol forms of cortisone-type treatment are now available and they are highly successful in preventing attacks before they occur. Chief of these are beclamethasone (“Becotide” and “Aldecin”). Used regularly, they are highly effective in stopping attacks from occurring. It takes a few weeks for them to become effective. Many children now use this regularly, eliminating the need for oral steroid drugs (the cortisone derivatives).

Other medication that is inhaled is called sodium cromoglycate. It has been around for many years and is also effective in aborting attacks in many instances before they occur. Likewise this must be used regularly. It does not succeed in all cases, but  a certain number find it provides good relief.

What about all the other pills and mixtures that choked the medicine cabinet of many asthmatics?

These are now not nearly so necessary. Tininophylline, adrenaline, theophylline and ephedrine are the basis of many. These are still sometimes used, especially for milder asthmatics.

Sometimes skin tests are carried out by allergy specialist to try to discover the most probable cause of the attacks. When it is found, an extract may be prepared that is injected into the patient in increasing doses over a period of 12-18 months. This is aimed at increasing resistance to product. Also, it is hoped to desensitize the patient, as the doctors say. It is still used, but is not popular. Other methods seem easier and more effective.

Keeping house dust to a minimum is advisable. In fact a special kit to help with is now available and is a worthwhile exercise.

Every effort should be made by the parents to eliminate allergy factors to which the child may be sensitive. Hairy, furred pets may precipitate symptoms. Microscopic house dust mites, present in house dust, and often very prolific in bedding, is notorious for causing attacks. Dry-cleaning bedroom curtains, washing bed clothing, vacuuming the bedroom weekly, probably washing the Nankets monthly, using a damp cloth to wipe away settled dust (rather than a dry duster that simply allows dust to re-enter the bedroom air) often help.

Every asthmatic must have a “crisis plan” worked out in conjunction with the doctor well in advance in the event of a sudden asthmatic emergency occurring.

This is of vital importance. How important is the child’s general health?

Ideally, the fitter the child the better. Keeping free from respiratory infections, and indeed infections of any nature, is worth striving for. Eating sensible, regular meals, getting exercise within the child’s capacity, avoiding cigarette smoke (and educating children on the dangers of smoking before they decide to start).

Many children gradually grow out of their asthma, and develop into strong, fit and healthy adults. The attacks become less frequent, and often finally vanish.

A happy, tension-free home environment can only help. Sensible parents will strive to achieve this. In fact it helps all round—parents included!

Today, asthmatic attacks occur with far less frequency and severity than formerly, because new medications are available that stop the attacks from taking over. (See Section 2: Chapter 5.) In the majority of cases a person who develops a sudden attack of asthma will do best with inhalation of one of the “instant action” aerosol preparations especially designed to cut short such an attack.

Occasionally, however, distressingly severe asthma attacks may prove to be life-endangering, so treat promptly.


The term Asthma refers to a chronic inflammatory condition or disease affecting the airways. Symptoms of asthma include coughing, chest tightening and shortness of breath. Symptoms are often recurring and can vary. Besides those already listed, asthma is also characterized by airway obstruction and bronchospasms (constriction of the muscles in the bronchioles). The condition is also called Reactive Airway Disease. A part of the danger of the disease lies in the fact that it is impartial and can affect both large and small airways.

For an attack or episode to occur, the airways affected are forced to contract causing coughing or wheezing. It is not uncommon for both to occur. Persons affected by asthma can merely experience occasional annoyance while the condition can be disruptive for some. It can be frightening because symptoms may be severe enough to be life-threatening.

An approximated 10 percent of girls and 15 percent of boys will be affected at some stage in their lives. The disease is documented as the most common cause of hospitalization in children in the US annually. Children with asthma are likely to experience their first attack by the age of 1. Almost 90 percent will experience this by age five.

It is noted that in most instances a child who develops persistent or sever symptoms has a family history of either asthma or allergies. In these cases, signs of the disease may present themselves within the first year of the child’s life. It is possible to outgrow the condition. In fact, approximately half of all asthma patients will eventually stop exhibiting or suffering from their symptoms. This happens mainly because airways tend to get larger as children grow.

The dark side to asthma is that despite advances in the field of study, asthma-related deaths have increased over the years. This being the case, it is important to keep monitoring symptoms, noting any and all changes and act swiftly in the event that an attack or episode takes place. Patients may also suffer from other conditions like sinusitis and bronchitis, both of which can trigger wheezing. Other triggers include common allergens like dust, animal dander, pollen, air pollution, cockroaches and some food kinds.

Drastic changes in emotions and exercise (light or heavy depending on the severity of condition) can also trigger asthma attacks. It has also been discovered that some girls experience wheezing shortly before the onset on their menstrual period and some drugs; aspirin for example, can trigger wheezing so check with a doctor before taking any medication.

The airway constriction caused by asthma is reversible over time and with proper treatment. Rescue inhalers (some which contain steroids) are used during attacks to keep airways open. Treatment can be used outside of attacks to help prevent them. There are many types of inhalers and alternatives to inhalers so a physician should be able to find a suitable match.

Since inflammation and swelling may still exist even in the absence of the listed symptoms, the treatment chosen should address these since treating the manifested symptoms will only provide temporary relief.


Simply put, an allergy is caused by the interaction between an agent within the external world and the antibodies that exist within the immune system. When antibodies are exposed to an agent; referred to as an allergen, the immune system releases compounds to deal with the introduction of these foreign bodies. For persons with allergic disorders, the body basically overreacts because it identifies the allergen as something harmful although it is not and an inappropriate reaction occurs. The symptoms of allergies are merely the reaction of this process. Allergies are extremely common in children with their severity ranging from mild to deadly.

Types of allergies

Types of allergies known range from those of the eyes (allergic conjunctivitis), the airways (asthma), the nose (allergic rhinitis), the gastrointestinal tract (food allergies), the skin (Atopic Dermatitis) to conditions in which the entire body is affected.

Many of persons with allergies suffer from airborne allergens, meaning things in the air around them. Pollen, grass and other vegetations, dust, pet dander, mold and even cockroaches are responsible for many of the symptoms exhibited in and around the home. Food items like soy, nuts, wheat, seafood and more commonly shellfish, eggs, cow’s milk and the protein found in cow’s milk that is added to other foods all fall under the most common food allergens although many others can cause allergic reactions. Drugs or medication, chemicals and animal stings, bites or skin residue are also common triggers

Developing Allergic Reactions

It is believed that a child has a 75 percent chance of developing an allergic disorder if both his or her parents suffer from allergies. Noted also is that a 25 to 50 percent drop in susceptibility occurs if only one parent has a negative reaction to an agent. While a child’s tendency to develop allergic disorders slumps to less that 10 percent with no parent having allergies. Despite the heightened possibility of developing allergies through hereditary, children do not necessarily exhibit the same symptoms or reactions that their parents do. Hence, a child may develop an eye allergy while one parent has a skin disorder and the other has allergic rhinitis.

Incidentally, some children end up having more adverse reactions than their parents. Some hereditary allergies disappear over time. Also, in children especially, some allergies may be outgrown with the body building up sensitivity to the allergen because of repeated contact, some are replaced by others and some may developed at different stages through-out life.

Types of Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions include but are not limited to eczema (skin), hives, wheezing, heavy breathing, tongue and throat swelling, swelling of the body and face, itching, runny nose, watery eyes, redness and swelling of skin, sneezing, headaches, pressure in the sinus cavity, upset stomach and shock-like reactions. Some of these are mild while some indicate severe reactions.

Since allergies are common, it is imperative that signs or symptoms are identified at the onset. Also, if possible, tests for allergies should be done to ascertain what the body considers allergens and steps taken to avoid these and other common agents.