Dr Sri answers a few questions about childhood Asthma
- What exactly is asthma? Asthma is a common condition affecting the lungs in children. Typically airways in the lungs become inflamed and narrow and your child can have repeated episodes of coughing, breathlessness and wheezing. The cough tends to be worse at night and early morning.
- At what age can it start? In most children with asthma, the symptoms start under 5 years. However, it is difficult to diagnose asthma in very young children as there are other conditions that can closely mimic asthma.
- Is it hereditary? The combination of genetics and exposure to certain environmental triggers causes asthma. The risk of developing asthma is higher if a parent or a sibling has asthma. The risk of developing asthma is also higher if the child has other allergic conditions like eczema, allergic rhinitis and food allergies.
- How can I avoid my child developing asthma? In some children, the triggers of asthma can be identified. These include viral infections, exercise, tobacco smoke, allergens like house dust mites, pollen, pets and certain foods. In these children, limiting or avoiding exposure to these triggers can prevent or minimize asthma attacks.
- What can I do to alleviate the symptoms? Once a diagnosis of asthma is confirmed your child will be given an asthma action plan containing the medicines to be given during an asthma attack. It is useful to share the plan with other people involved in your child’s care. If the attacks are frequent or severe, your doctor may discuss certain medicines to prevent or control the disease.
- How long does it last… or is it forever? Some children may grow out of their asthma. Some children (particularly those with other allergies and strong family history of asthma) are less likely to grow out of it. However, it is important to remember that with the appropriate use of medication, your child can lead an active normal life.
- What is your advice when the Haze comes to Singapore? Children with underlying lung problems like asthma should limit their outdoor activity when the haze hits Singapore. I would suggest considering a quality face mask when outside and also quality air purifiers in the home.
- Is there anything more parents can do? You can speak to your doctor regarding the signs and symptoms of an asthma attack so that treatment can be started early. Learning the correct inhaler technique is vital in efficient management of your child’s condition. Avoiding the potential triggers wherever possible will minimize the attacks and the need for medication.