All You Wanted To Know About Asthma In Children
The commonest cause of persistent cough in an otherwise healthy child is bronchial asthma. It is estimated that, in Delhi, one out of every five children has at least one episode of wheezing. Dr. Krishan Chugh, Paediatric Pulmonologist, explains the cause and management of this common disorder.
What is the treatment?
Coughs and colds are infectious diseases that are very common in children. However, there are some children who have frequent or persistent cough. There may be a number of diseases like tuberculosis and respiratory infections that may cause this, particularly in children living in slums and overcrowded areas. The commonest cause of a frequent or persistent cough in an otherwise healthy child is bronchial asthma. It is estimated that, in Delhi, one out of every five children has at least one episode of wheezing. Recurrent episodes of wheezing and cough are called asthma. The exact reason for asthma being so common is not known. However, a number of factors may contribute to its rising incidence. These include changing lifestyles, decreasing early childhood infections, which direct the infant's immune system towards allergy rather than protection against infection, increasing pollution and an increasing awareness of this disorder. While pollution is a causative factor, it must be remembered that asthma is very common even in developed countries like Australia where pollution is not a major problem. Thus, there must be many more factors that contribute to its causation.
What exactly is asthma?
When a child suffers from repeated episodes of cough and wheezing (a high pitched sound heard each time the child exhales out air) he is said to be suffering from asthma. Generally, there must be more than three episodes before a label of asthma is given. Many parents, and even some doctors, think that these children are suffering from allergic bronchitis, wheezy bronchitis, bronchitis, nasobronchial allergy, allergic cough, spasmodic bronchitis, chest congestion, hyper-reactive airway disease or change of season problems. No matter what name is given to the above-described disorder, experts believe that the correct medical term is 'asthma'. The importance of using the correct term, asthma, is that only then would the doctor and the patient start prescribing or taking the appropriate treatment. Use of appropriate therapy makes the child's life more comfortable and prevents him from developing the long-term, probably permanent, damaging effects of the disease. It must be emphasized that not all patients with asthma wheeze. Some only have a cough; others have breathing difficulty during play or exercise only. Take the word of the child's paediatrician seriously. Normally, no laboratory tests are required to confirm the diagnosis. The clinical history of the illness as told by the parents, and a physical examination by the paediatrician is enough. Sometimes tests like chest X-ray, peak flow rate and lung function tests may be requested.
What is the treatment?
Two types of medicines are used for treatment of asthma:
- those that relieve symptoms
- those that prevent subsequent attacks.
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