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Breathe easy after a childhood asthma diagnosis

parent watches as child with asthma uses inhaler while laying on couch

As a parent, receiving an asthma diagnosis for your child can be a scary moment. After all, this widespread disease can be the root of serious health issues. Despite its severity, asthma is extremely common and quite treatable. If your little one was recently diagnosed with asthma, check out this helpful information for managing his or her illness.

Learn the statistics
Before you drive yourself crazy with worry, it's important to learn some facts about asthma. According to the American Lung Association, asthma affects 7.1 million children under the age of 18 in the U.S. In 2011, an estimated 4.1 million kids experienced an asthmatic event. When left untreated, asthma can be extremely serious. In 2010, there were 640,000 asthma-related emergency room visits for children 15 and under. An estimated $50.1 billion is spent annually on asthma treatments. Fortunately, asthma is extremely manageable when properly addressed.

Know the facts about attacks 
Perhaps an unexpected asthma attack led to your child's diagnosis, or maybe you're worried his or her mild wheezing will eventually result in an asthmatic episode. Either way, it's important to know the signs and triggers of asthma attacks.

"Symptoms include wheezing, coughing and trouble breathing."

According to the Mayo Clinic, asthma attacks occur when airways become irritated and swell up. The muscles that surround the airways start to contract, which in turn narrows the bronchial tubes, preventing essential amounts of oxygen from entering the lungs. Common symptoms of asthma attacks include trouble breathing, excessive coughing and wheezing. Depending on the severity of the episode, these symptoms can be minor to acute.

A number of factors can spur asthma attacks, which is why it's important to know what triggers may be present in your child's environment at all times. The ALA reported that some of the most common elements that may prompt attacks include colds or allergies, cigarette smoke, indoor and outdoor irritants such as pollen, animal dander, dust, cockroaches and certain foods. Asthma attacks can also be brought on by stress, excitement, exercise or sudden change in temperature, noted the source.

It's important to be proactive about asthma management.
It's important to be proactive about asthma management.

What to do in the event of an attack 
Once your child receives a diagnosis, speak to his or her doctor about obtaining a quick-relief inhaler that can be used in the event of emergencies. If your child appears to be having an attack, administer this emergency medication. If it works, you should still consider bringing him or her to an urgent care center for a check-up. If the medicine doesn't appear to be helping the situation, bring your child to the emergency room for further treatment.

If your little one starts to experience attacks rather frequently, you may want to investigate what could be triggering them. If someone in your household smokes cigarettes, ask him or her to quit or avoid smoking around the child, as smoke is a dangerous irritant that can be life-threatening for people with asthma. The ALA noted that some asthmatic children can't live in environments with animals, even if they aren't allergic, because dust and dander can make it difficult to breathe. If you have pets, they could be the root of frequent asthma attacks.

Strategies for asthma management 
In addition to adjusting your child's environment and having emergency inhalers at the ready, there are a few ways you can help control his or her asthma. First, always keep in-depth records of your little one's asthma symptoms, such as wheezing and coughing, even if they don't result in an attack. Write down the causes of every episode, and of course monitor how many times he or she needs to be brought to an urgent care center or emergency room as a result of respiratory issues. The Cleveland Clinic explained that keeping records can give you a concrete idea of how your child's asthma is evolving or progressing, which will allow you to be more proactive about preventing attacks.

Additionally, consider using a peak flow meter. This device records the amount of air that flows out of your child's lungs in terms of liters per minute. Ask your physician to teach you how to use this gadget and perform regular checks at home. If your child doesn't appear to be hitting healthy marks, discuss possible reasons and treatments with your doctor, suggested Columbus Regional Health.

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