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Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs that causes airway inflammation and makes it difficult to breathe. It can be triggered by a number of factors and symptoms may include coughing or wheezing. Once a child is diagnosed with asthma, it is important to control the daily symptoms and to recognize early warning signs when symptoms are worsening.
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways that affects millions of children nationwide. Yet with proper management and avoidance of the triggers that cause flare-ups, it doesn't have to rule your child's life.
Tyra Bryant-Stephens, MD: Asthma is a chronic disease of the lungs, and it can occur as early as six months. It can occur later in life as well.
Julian Allen, MD: Normally, the way your lung functions is that you have airways that go from your mouth into your lungs, and they end up in little air sacs. In the normal lung those tubes are wide open. It makes it very easy for air to flow in and out. In somebody with asthma those tubes, or airways, are narrow because the wall of the tube is inflamed, so that makes it more difficult to breathe in someone with asthma. It's like breathing through a straw.
Narrator: Children with asthma can have different signs, also known as symptoms, that show their asthma is not well controlled. Common symptoms of asthma are wheeze, a whistling noise in the chest, cough, especially late at night, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.
Tyra Bryant-Stephens, MD: Asthma can look many different ways. Some children may cough with their asthma. Some children wheeze. Some children work really hard to breathe using their chest muscles and their stomach muscles.
Julian Allen, MD: They may cough when they exercise. They may cough when they go out in the cold air.
Dad: He'd step outside. He'd run across the yard one time. He's coughing. We got to pick him up and bring him in the house.
Julian Allen, MD: When they get a cold, the cold may just not seem to go away.
Nicholas Pawlowski, MD: Coughing or awaking after midnight in the middle of the night, that's the most severe symptom.
Tyra Bryant-Stephens, MD: When you have a child who is waking up at night with a cough, then they're experiencing the beginning of a flare.
Julian Allen, MD: Most people associate asthma with asthma attacks.
Nicholas Pawlowski, MD: During an asthma attack the inflammation process kicks in in the lungs. The muscles tighten around the airways. Extra mucus is produced, and there's swelling in the airways. The patient can feel pain or shortness of breath.
Child 2: When I have an attack, it's not a good thing. My chest hurts. I cough a lot.
Child 1: Like every time I breathe, it just didn't feel right. It hurted.
Mom 1: Me and her father had to rush her to the hospital.
Narrator: Asthma flares, also known as "attacks", occur when swelling in the airways worsens. This can happen due to a cold virus or a trigger in the child's environment. If a child's asthma is not well controlled before the flare, symptoms can be more severe. Symptoms of asthma, such as wheeze, cough, or shortness of breath, are early warning signs that a flare may be beginning. The key to preventing asthma flares is to control daily symptoms of asthma and recognize early warning signs when symptoms are worsening.
Tyra Bryant-Stephens, MD: Many children think that early warning signs are a normal part of life because they are used to those symptoms, and they're not used to their asthma being in control. So it's very important for parents to understand and to stay clued in as to what their early warning signs are and, in fact, inform any of the children's caretakers about the early warning signs.
Mom 3: He's silent. He just sits there and daze off. And then I just start looking at him, and then I see him breathing, like trying to get some air, going like this. And then I look at his throat, and I see that this part right here starts sucking in. Then I know he's in distress.