When kids wheeze, gasp and cough because of asthma, not only are they contending with a potentially life-threatening lack of air, they also may find that they’re restricted from many of the everyday pleasures of running, playing and just being a kid.
Today, around 6.2 million children under age 18 have asthma — about one of every 12. It’s the No. 1 reason for missed school days (in the U.S., in 2013, that total was 13.8 million!) and asthma is the third-ranking cause of hospitalization among children younger than 15.
There are two kinds of asthma: allergic and non-allergic. Non-allergic asthma can be the result of repeated respiratory problems (exposure to air pollution, persistent mold, insect infestations and respiratory infections). Episodes may be
triggered by exercise, hyperventilation, stress and cold or dry air. It usually occurs later in life. Allergic asthma is what happens to kids when the immune system overreacts to a trigger or allergen, such as pet hair and dander, pollen,
smoke or dust mites. Wheezing and coughing are provoked as airways become swollen and produce mucus.
No one is sure what causes allergic asthma, but the hyped-up immune response may develop following a respiratory infection or chronic exposure to air pollution or smoke. It can happen even before a child is born! That’s right. Research is revealing that moms-to-be need to be aware that behavior during pregnancy can increase a child’s risk for asthma. One recent study from Norway indicated an association between mothers who took acetaminophen while pregnant and asthma in their kids at ages 3 and 7. The study also found an association between prenatal use of ibuprofen and asthma in children at 3 years old.
In general, pregnant women should be aware that medications, air pollution, and lifestyle habits such as smoking can end up making their child-to-be more likely to contend with asthma. In fact, a study in Pediatrics found that kids with severe asthma are almost four times more likely to have been exposed to tobacco smoking before birth — even without later exposure — than children with a mild form of the disease.
If you suspect your child has asthma, get to a doc very soon. Make sure you tell your doctor about any family history of asthma and when exactly you notice your child having trouble breathing; is it during daytime, nighttime, after eating, after
exercise, after playing with a pet, etc.?
Then your doctor should begin testing.
For the very young, lung function tests can be difficult, but an X-ray, white blood cell count and/or an allergy scratch test can provide answers pretty quickly. If you have a child with asthma, every babysitter, preschool caretaker, teacher and school nurse needs to be aware of the fact and should know how to identify an attack if it happens. They also need to have a rescue inhaler on site and know how to use it. (In special cases or with severe allergic attacks, an Epi-Pen may
be used; that, too, should be available, and all involved should be trained on when and how to use it.)
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (aafa.org) has an educational toolkit on its website for parents and caregivers. It includes a Student Asthma Action Card that you can give to your child’s school. The “card” is actually a PDF form that lets you provide emergency contact names and phone numbers.
Also included is a step-by-step plan of what to do in case of an emergency, along with a Daily Asthma Management Plan that will help everyone identify triggers.
If managed correctly, kids with asthma can lead a normal life, run and jump and play with all the other kids. David Beckham, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Greg Louganis are just three examples of kids with asthma who grew up to accomplish
amazing thing and didn’t let asthma keep them from chasing their dreams.
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Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.
© 2017 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz,
M.D. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc
This column is sponsored by your local choice for healthy lifestyle products -Nutter's Bulk and Natural Foods
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