Asthma belabors breathing, spells out long-term problems for young children

by Symptom Advice on December 2, 2011

“It is the leading cause of school absences among children,” McKinley said, adding that missed work hours, as well as prevention and treatment efforts for asthma, makes the disease very costly for Americans. Costs have been on the rise for at least the past decade.

“It’s a chronic disease that doesn’t go away,” she said. “And there is no cure for it.”

McKinley and Intermountain’s Dr. Alyson Edmunds, also a pediatric hospitalist, will be featured during Saturday’s Deseret News/Intermountain Healthcare Hotline, where they will take questions about RSV and pediatric asthma and provide advice free of charge. From 10 a.m. until noon, people can call 1-800-925-8177 or post questions on the Deseret News’ Facebook page,

Asthma is a disease of the respiratory system that affects everyone differently. it is typically caused by genetics and/or environmental factors. Attacks, in which a person cannot draw in enough air, can be triggered by any number of things, including a virus, air pollution, dust and animal dander, second-hand smoke, mold and mildew and even insects and cockroaches in a person’s living space.

The goal, McKinley said, is to identify those triggers and keep airways from becoming inflamed in the first place, thus preventing attacks and maintaining a normal lifestyle as much as possible.

Treatment and management of the disease is much the same for adults as it is for children, however in small children, good habits need to be encouraged early on. Physicians have a number of tools to help children with asthma to develop a plan of action. the plan often includes identifying when a rescue inhaler, containing the broncho-dilator albuterol, is necessary, as well as when triggers are present and affecting their airways.

Children older than 5 years of age can participate in pulmonary testing to determine their level of control of the disease. It’s typically a good sign if asthma attacks are rare.

Symptoms that end up being persistent, such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, as well as fatigue or irritability, usually lead to the need for long-term medication or more intense treatments.

The ultimate goal, however, is to avoid hospitalizations and having to fight for air.

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