What causes childhood asthma? - New Canaan & Darien Moms

Researchers continue to learn what causes asthma. It is not entirely understood. The following things play a part:

  • Genetics. Asthma runs in families.
  • Allergies. Some allergies are more common in people with asthma. And, allergies also tend to run in families.
  • Respiratory infections. Infants and young children who have some respiratory infections are more likely to have long-term lung problems.
  • Environmental factors. Irritants, like pollution and allergens, are known to cause asthma.

What causes asthma symptoms to worsen (flare-ups)? 
Triggers are those things that cause asthma symptoms to get worse or asthma flare-ups.  Each child has different triggers. A very important part of asthma management is identifying and then trying to avoid triggers. Asthma triggers include:

  • Allergens, such as pollen, dust, and pets
  • Upper respiratory infections, such as colds or the flu
  • Inhaled irritants, such as secondhand smoke
  • Certain weather conditions, such as cold air
  • Exercise or physical activity
  • Emotion, such as crying, laughing, or yelling

Do children outgrow asthma?
How asthma will affect a child throughout his or her lifetime varies.

  • Many infants and toddlers may wheeze when sick with a viral illness, such as a cold or flu. However, most of these children don’t get asthma later in life.
  • Some children with persistent wheezing and asthma get better during the teenage years.
  • About half of the children who have asthma at a young age appear to “outgrow” it, although asthma symptoms may reappear later in life.

If my child has asthma, can he or she participate in sports and activities?
Exercise, such as long-distance running, may trigger a flare-up in many children with asthma. However, with proper management, a child with asthma can fully participate in most sports. Aerobic exercise actually improves airway function by strengthening breathing muscles. Some tips for exercising with asthma include the following:

  • Teach your child to breathe through the nose and not the mouth to warm and humidify the air before it enters the airways.
  • During cold weather, have your child wear a scarf over his or her mouth and nose to warm inhaled air.
  • Give your child asthma medicine before exercising, as recommended by your child’s healthcare provider. If your child is not already on controller medicine and he or she exercises daily, the provider may recommend daily controller medicine. To find a Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital respiratory specialist near you, visit www.ynhch.org.
  • Have your child carry his or her quick-relief inhaler medicine.

Asthma and school
Some children with asthma may need to take their medicines during school hours. It’s important that you and your child work with his or her healthcare provider and school staff to meet the child’s asthma treatment goals. Laws about students carrying rescue inhalers vary by state. Make sure you understand the laws and that your child knows when and how to use their inhaler. For the best asthma care for your child at school, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology recommends the following:

  • Meet with teachers and other relevant school staff to inform them about your child’s condition, special needs, and asthma management plan.
  • Educate school personnel on your child’s asthma medicines and how to help during an asthma flare-up.
  • Ask school staff to treat your child as normal as possible when the asthma is under control.
  • Before starting a physical education class or a team sport, make sure the teacher or coach understands that exercise can trigger asthma symptoms.
  • Talk with teachers and school administrators about indoor air quality, allergens, and irritants in the school.
  • Ensure your child’s emotional well-being by reassuring that asthma doesn’t have to slow him or her down or make him or her different from other children.

Always consult your child’s provider if you or your child has questions or concerns.
Looking for a respiratory specialist to treat your child’s asthma? Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital is ranked nationally amongst the best children’s hospitals in pulmonology by U.S. News and World Report. Schedule an appointment with one of our pediatric respiratory specialists at either of our nearby locations in Greenwich, Norwalk and Trumbull, 203-785-4081. To find a specialist, visit https://goo.gl/NaeypY

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