Asthma is a childhood condition that affects the small airways of the lungs. Children who have asthma suffer from a narrowing of these airways. Symptoms range from wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. They can vary from mild to serious depending on the child.  In children of pre-school age, wheezing is usually brought on by a viral infection, causing a cold, ear or throat infection. With the proper treatment, symptoms can be eased and managed to prevent attacks. Treatment is usually with inhalers. A child with asthma may take a preventer inhaler every day. This will help to keep symptoms at bay. However, in the case of an asthma attack, a reliever inhaler would be necessary. Asthma can start at any age, but most children have their first symptoms by the age of five. This childhood condition is on the increase.
Although there is no cure for Asthma, approximately half of children who develop this childhood condition will grow out of it.

No one knows what causes asthma and to date there is no cure for it.  The most common symptoms are as follows:
v  Tightness in the chest
v  Coughing
v  Shortness of breath
v  Wheezing

A child suffering from asthma can be more nervous and shy in certain environments. Not necessarily in every case, but it may leave the child more self-conscious as they often feel singled out or excluded. They can be inhibited about certain activities where they are running or over exerting themselves. It can affect their self esteem when other children win for example, sports activities. They may also be afraid to play with pets, due to their allergies. Asthma can also lead to them missing school time if they have for example, a chest infection. Should a nebuliser need to be used, in severe cases, the child has to have their medication through this method for fifteen minutes at a time, four times per day. This is a time consuming procedure and most children don’t even like taking regular medication, for less acute illnesses.

There is a huge responsibility on the asthma child’s carer. They constantly need to ensure that the child is administered his/her daily medication. They also need to inform the crèche or pre-school that the child attends and leave instructions on what to do should the child have an attack. Medication has to be sent to the carers/school. It is also the duty of the home carer to ‘damp dust’ the house daily, vacuum twice a week and wash all bed clothes once a week at 60 degrees C. The carer is on high alert from September until March monitoring the child constantly for flu’s, chest infections and colds. This can be stressful for both carer and child.   

As the asthma child is only allowed one cuddly toy in their bedroom (which has to be put in the freezer once a month for 24 hours) this has a knock on effect on other children in the family, for example if two sisters share the same bedroom. Children are not allowed any books in their bedrooms to avoid dust gathering. For families who take part in activities together, for example swimming, this may have to be cancelled if the child with asthma is unwell. When going away from home, for example, on holiday extra equipment and medication has to be taken, ie. A nebuliser. Medication costs also affect the families monthly budget.

When asthma is managed correctly there should be no reason why a child cannot enjoy a normal lifestyle. It is possible for you to seek advice from your GP to create a plan to include instructions for medication, a list of triggers and keep a log if symptoms get worse. It would be important to include instructions for dealing with an asthma attacks. This plan can be kept with the medication that is sent to the crèche/playschool.

As we are more inhibited as children and often don’t want to stand out from the crowd, it can be embarrassing for young children to get used to using an inhaler on a daily basis, in front of classmates. It is of benefit to the asthma sufferer to lead a healthy life style which will include diet, fresh air and exercise. As stress can be a trigger in some cases it is advisable to stress levels low and to get plenty of rest.

Reliever Inhalers - eg. Ventolin is taken to ease asthma symptoms as quickly as possible. This helps to relax the airways and allows the child to breathe easy again. The medication used in these is usually short-acting beta2-agonist. If the asthma is managed well there shouldn’t be any need for use of Ventolin on a regular basis. Also, these inhalers are often blue in colour.
Preventer Inhalers – eg. Flixotide or (steroid inhalers) are normally used morning and evening to prevent an attack coming on. The medication used here usually contains inhaled corticosteroid. The child will need to be on this medication for some time before they will feel the full benefit. Preventer inhalers are normally brown, red or orange in colour.
Singulair – is a prescribed medication taken once a day to help prevent asthma attacks and for long term treatment of asthma. It can be used for children from 12 months old to adulthood.

Ventolin – can increase the heart rate and may cause headaches.
Flixotide – Mood swings, anxiety, aggressive behaviour, destructive hyperactivity.
Singulair – Nightmares, bad behaviour, broken sleep, sore throat, raised temperature.


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