Asthma is a breathing condition caused by tightening of the small airway tubes of the lungs (bronchioles). Thin muscles that surround these tubes can go into spasm during an asthma attack making breathing very difficult. Also, the lining of the tubes can swell and produce a thick mucus, which further inhibits breathing. During an attack, a child may cough, wheeze, be short of breath, or have a tight feeling in the chest. Asthma tends to occur in families where others have asthma, hay fever or eczema. Many children may outgrow asthma, as their airways grow larger with age.

Keep your child calm during an asthma attack. Stress can make the symptoms worse. Do not give your child antihistamines (Benadryl) during an attack; it may make breathing more difficult.

What brings on an attack?

Common Triggers:
Animal dander
Colds and the flu
Other Causes:
Cold air
Strenuous exercise
Certain foods
Tobacco smoke
Air pollution
Car emissions
Home care ideas:

Reduce activity during an attack.

Only give medications as prescribed by your doctor.

Provide plenty of clear fluids to help thin and loosen mucus.

Encourage your child to stay in good physical condition. Sports that require steady energy output are best (swimming, soccer and cross-country are great). He or she should warm up slowly.

Take special note of what factors bring on an attack and avoid these if possible.

In cold weather, have your child wear a scarf over his or her mouth. Breathing through the nose also helps warm and condition air before it goes into the lungs.

If you suspect that your child has asthma, your doctor should evaluate him or her. Children may be treated with inhaled medications that can open the airways and prevent attacks from becoming too serious.

Some information adapted form The WorkCare Group, Inc. 2000