With the weather being as unpredictable as it has been this winter season in Houston, and with spring allergy season on its way, we have been seeing a TON of kiddos with asthma recently! Asthma is a medical condition that causes your airways to become inflamed, swollen, narrowed, and produce extra mucus. All of this makes breathing difficult and can impact a child’s quality of life if not controlled well with medications. Children with asthma often have a harder time playing sports and often do not enjoy going outside because allergens can worsen their asthma symptoms.
Symptoms of asthma may include:
- Coughing spells throughout the day and night, including while crying, laughing, or playing
- A cough that won’t go away
- Fatigue and an inability to keep up when playing
- Intermittent rapid breathing
- Chest tightness, often described by children as “hurting”
- Wheezing sound while breathing
- Shortness of breath, particularly when engaged in activities
About 7 million children in the United States have asthma, with most showing symptoms around five years of age. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, “In Texas, asthma affects roughly 1 in 13 adults and 1 in 11 children. In 2014, this represented 1.4 million Texans aged 18 years or older and 617,000 children.”
Risk factors for developing asthma may include:
- Allergies – including those that are airborne like pollen or skin conditions such as eczema
- Genetics – those with a family history are more likely to develop asthma
- Chronic respiratory infections
- Low birth weight
- Exposure to smoke either before or after birth (this includes both second and third hand smoke)
- African American or Puerto-Rican ethnicity
Diagnosis of asthma:
To diagnosis your child, our team at Peekaboo Pediatrics will use a variety of tests. First, we’ll take a thorough medical and family history of allergies, asthma, smoking, and anything else we think may be contributing to symptoms. We will also ask lots of questions about what types of symptoms your child is experiencing and with what exacerbating factors. Next, we will perform a thorough physical exam focusing especially on your child’s lungs. Typical tests we perform to diagnose asthma include a spirometry, a simple breathing test which we can do right in the office within a matter of minutes. The spirometry test is a pulmonary function test which measures the volume and flow of air that can be inhaled and exhaled in your child’s lungs. This gives us great information to either diagnose asthma or monitor our existing patients with asthma to ensure that their current treatment is being maximized. It is important to note that because the spirometry test requires some cooperation from the patient, we typically cannot accurately perform this test in children less than four years old.
Treatment of asthma:
If your child is diagnosed with asthma, Dr. Pankaj or Dr. Thakkar will likely prescribe breathing treatments (such as nebulizers or inhalers), advice about avoiding triggers, and information about how to track your child’s symptoms. Some children just need treatments when they get sick or do heavy physical activity, while others need to take medicine every day. It is important to come to see us at least once every three months if your child has asthma so that we can monitor his or her symptoms and make sure you have adequate refills on hand.
If you’re concerned your child might have asthma and would like him or her to get tested, or if your child has asthma and is currently experiencing symptoms, please give us a call to schedule an appointment. We’re one of Houston’s favorite pediatricians and are committed to providing your child with the best care and treatment possible.