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Asthma Awareness

Learn to recognize, treat and manage asthma

November 2013

Did you know that asthma is the most common chronic disease of childhood? Asthma is a chronic illness that blocks or narrows the lungs, making breathing difficult. Asthma affects 1 in 11 children and is the third leading cause of hospitalization among children under age 15. In most children, asthma develops before age 5.

However, the best defense against asthma is knowledge about the disease! Parents and doctors can work together to help children manage an illness that will allow children to live a full and happy life. While asthma cannot be cured, it can be controlled with today's medicines. Asthma control medications are safe and effective, causing minimal-to-no side effects. Good control of asthma means that a child can run, play, be active, participate in any sport and not have frequent flare-ups of asthma.


Symptoms of asthma vary widely. Some children may only experience one symptom, while others will experience more. The most common symptoms include:
  • Wheezing or a high-pitched whistling sound
  • Shortness of breath or labored breathing – especially after exercising
  • Frequent coughing spells or a chronic cough
  • Coughing during sleep

  • Chest tightness

    If your child has any of these symptoms, it is important to note and track the symptoms. Details, including when and how often the symptoms occur, will be helpful to share with your child's pediatrician if you think he or she may be suffering from asthma.


    Triggers vary from child to child. However, some of the more common triggers include:
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Respiratory infections, colds
  • Perfumes, aerosols, or anything with a strong smell
  • Cold air or a quick temperature change
  • Exercise
  • Allergens such as animal dander, dust, pollen, mold

    Risk factors

    There are certain things that make it more likely that your child will have asthma. Some of them include:
  • Low birth weight
  • Exposure to cigarette smoke before or after birth
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • A family history of asthma or seasonal or food allergies
  • Nasal allergies
  • Eczema – a chronic, itchy skin rash


    Your child's pediatrician or an asthma specialist (such as a pediatric pulmonologist or allergist) will conduct a detailed history. The doctor will ask about symptoms, family history and conduct a physical exam to listen to the child's heart and lungs. The doctor also may think a chest X-ray and a lung function test are needed. All of these findings will help the physician determine if asthma is the culprit. If it is, the physician will likely develop an individualized asthma action plan for your child. This action plan describes how and when to use asthma medications and it will help you understand what to do if the symptoms get worse and when emergency care may be needed.

    Managing asthma

    There is no cure for asthma, but it can be controlled. Maintaining control of asthma is key to keeping symptoms at bay and preventing asthma attacks. The doctor will recommend the best treatment plan based on your child's symptoms and age. Avoiding known triggers and using control medications every day as prescribed are the best ways to control asthma. To help decide what triggers your child's asthma, your doctor may recommend some allergy testing, but allergy testing is not needed for every child with asthma. You will want to share the asthma plan with babysitters, teachers, coaches and the school nurse so that they can all recognize and treat your child's asthma. That way, your child can enjoy all aspects of childhood without being slowed down by his asthma. With the proper planning, care and treatment, your child will be able to live an active, healthy life without limits!

    For more information visit www.rileyhospital.org

    Nadia Krupp, M.D., is Director of Riley Asthma Care Center at Indiana University Health.

  • Tags: Health, In This Issue

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