Asthma in Children: Triggers, Symptoms, the Air You Breathe

December 2015

this guest post is brought to you by Dustin Jefferson Onghanseng, co-founder of uHoo

Asthma is a common chronic ailment of childhood. In fact, nearly nine million children in the United States have asthma and most of them develop symptoms even before the age of five. Like any chronic condition, asthma can have a significant effect on a child’s education, livelihood, and emotional well-being. According to MedicineNet.com, asthma accounts for more hospitalizations as well as more school absences than any other chronic respiratory condition in the U.S.

Common Triggers and Symptoms

Determining whether a child has asthma can be difficult. Like anything, asthma symptoms and episodes of attacks vary depending on the child’s age and what elements he or she is exposed to. Most commonly, though, asthma is triggered by a number of factors, including:

Allergens: These are tiny, often microscopic, substances that float in the air. Examples of these include pollen, dust, ragweed, and pet dander.

Weather and Temperature: Although not fully realized and understood, experts say that changes in weather, extreme cold or heat, and similar instances have a clear link on asthma symptoms. Thunderstorms can also increase the odds of an asthma attack by 15 percent due to the number of fungal spores present in the air.

Irritants: Some asthma-inducing irritants include cigarette smoke and air pollution.

Exercise: KidsHealth.com noted that among children who have asthma, 80 percent of them experience symptoms when they exercise or play strenuously due to inhaling cold, dry air.

Infections: Common cold and flu can trigger asthma symptoms, which can eventually lead to an asthma attack when infections get much worse.

Bacteria: A recent study by Canadian researchers also suggests that gut bacteria (or more specifically, the lack of it) may influence the risk of asthma development in children.

Strong emotions: Because they affect the normal breathing pattern of a person, crying, shouting, laughing, and any other physical display of strong emotion can contribute to a child’s asthma attack. As The Americal College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) notes, “Scientists have found that rapid breathing associated with strong emotions can cause bronchial tubes to constrict, possibly provoking or worsening an attack.”

When a person is exposed to any of these triggers, he or she may experience symptoms, such as wheezing (whistling sound when breathing), pain or tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, coughing, and recurring bronchitis. If your little one has asthma, you may also notice that he or she has less energy during play and frequently complains about feelings of tiredness or weakness. If your child has any of these symptoms, early diagnosis and treatment are imperative to reduce asthma flare-ups, improve your child’s breathing, and minimize other issues associated with the condition.

The Air You Breathe at Home

Although it may seem like an overwhelming responsibility, knowing exactly what steps to take to control asthma is a critical part of managing your child’s chronic ailment.

As mentioned, asthma can be difficult to detect, especially if symptoms are not severe. To make certain your child does not develop asthma or experience frequent episodes, it is especially imperative to keep the environmental condition in your home free from asthma triggers.

Remember: prevention is always better than cure. With that in mind, below are some ways to avoid triggering your child’s asthma.

  1. At night, keep your windows closed to keep mold spores and pollen out while your child sleeps.
  2. Mold fancies damp, dark and humid environments. To make sure that they don’t proliferate inside your home, utilize a dehumidifier and conduct home inspections periodically.
  3. Use an indoor air quality sensor. The air your child breathes at home can have a significant effect on his or her developing condition, so it is important to ensure that you have good indoor air, especially during the night where asthma symptoms can get much worse. Air quality sensors, like uHoo, diagnose the quality of the air indoors, let you know if something is off (excessive CO, presence of particle matter, changes in temperature, etc.), and recommend ways to remedy the issue. Hence, you can breathe easy knowing that your child is far away from potential triggers.
  4. During cold weather or pollen season, just stay indoors. If it really is necessary to go out, make sure that your little one wears a scarf or mask over his or her nose and mouth.
  5. Wash your child’s bedding weekly in hot water to kill dust mites. You may also consider switching to allergen-impermeable bed and pillow covers to rid the bedroom of pesky dust mites.
  6. Drop your smoking habit. Secondhand smoke is one of the biggest risk factors for asthma’s development and progression. Even if you do not smoke at home, your little one may still unknowingly inhale smoke particles through your hair and clothes. If smoke and other outside air pollutants are unavoidable, be sure to change as soon as you arrive home.
  7. Avoid using perfumes and other products with strong odors. These contain substances that when inhaled by your child could aggravate his or her asthma symptoms or trigger an attack.
  8. If you notice your little one experiencing difficulties in breathing, see a doctor for diagnosis, such as an MRI scan (how to prepare your little one for that), and treatment. An allergist may also coach you in ways to treat asthma during emergency situations. It is also a good idea to keep a diary of your child’s possible asthma triggers and symptoms, so you may discuss them with your child’s pediatrician and come up with a written action plan.

Asthma can be triggered anywhere, at any time. While mild episodes may last for just a few minutes and be remedied with medication, severe asthma attacks can last for hours, even days, so you have to always be prepared to cope with it. If you act fast, your little one is less likely to experience severe episodes and will not require as much medication to control the symptoms.

With careful management of the condition, you should be able to reduce the disruptions caused by asthma, preventing your child from experiencing frequent flare-ups.

About the author...Visionary | Strategist | Rebel. Dustin is a bold visionary on what healthcare is supposed to be, a strategist in the journey towards that vision, and a rebel who never accepts the status quo. He founded uHoo, a company that utilizes technology to help people live healthier, to do just that.