There isn’t a single test to see if your child has asthma and the causes vary from child to child.
Your health care professional will:
1 – Ask about your child’s symptoms, their medical history and whether they or anyone else in the family has allergies or eczema.
2 – Listen to your child’s chest to see if they can hear wheezing
3 – Measure how fast your child can breathe using a “peak flow meter” if they are over 5 years old. (A peak flow test is a simple test of how quickly you can blow air out of your lungs. Peak flow meters are available from most pharmacies or on prescription).
Your child may be given a trial of treatment. This means having very small doses of asthma medication to see if it improves their symptoms. If their breathing is better after treatment then it’s likely they have asthma.
Triggers for asthma aren’t the “cause” of asthma, but they are the things that bring asthma on – they will vary from child to child. These triggers can include:
These are things that irritate the airways when they are breathed in, such as smoke and air pollution.
Physical activity can make asthma worse, particularly in cold weather. But exercise is important for your child’s health so they shouldn’t avoid it. They should take their reliever inhaler before exercise. If they still get symptoms while exercising, they should have a rest, have their inhaler and wait until they feel better before starting again.
If your child is allergic to something, their allergy could trigger asthma symptoms. Common things that cause an allergic reaction are pollen, mould, dust mites and pets.
Colds and flu are common triggers for asthma.
Cold weather can bring on asthma, as well as very hot weather, damp weather and thunderstorms.
Children can have lots of emotions in one day, and strong emotions, such as the excitement around a birthday, can trigger symptoms.
Let your child’s school know about their condition, give them a copy of your child’s asthma action plan, and talk them through it.
Look out for what makes your child’s asthma worse. If you’re a smoker, you’ll find your child’s asthma is harder to manage and your child’s asthma medicine may not work as well. Being around tobacco smoke will make your child’s asthma symptoms worse.
Don’t smoke, don’t wear smokey clothes into the house, and don’t let other people smoke in the house, if at all possible.
The symptoms of an asthma attack can take 6 to 48 hours to become serious. Spotting them early could help your child avoid a serious attack. If your child wakes up with symptoms during the night or in the early morning, their treatment may need adjusting. Arrange to see your doctor or nurse as soon as possible. You should also arrange an appointment if your child is wheezy during the day and needs to use their reliever inhaler more than three times a week.
Always give your child their medication as instructed in the plan from your doctor or specialist.
Your child should have a review with their doctor, nurse or specialist every 6 months. This is to check they’re getting the right treatment – and this may change over time. If you think your child’s asthma action plan isn’t working, arrange a review sooner.
Make sure you and your school/ family/ carers – understands how your child should use the inhaler and spacer. Ask your doctor, nurse or specialist to show you if you’re not sure. Check your child’s technique regularly. This means you need to know it as well.
It’s really important the whole family takes your child’s asthma seriously and understands what to look out for. If your child is older, teach them how to recognise the symptoms too. Keep a diary of your child’s symptoms.
If your child is 5 or over, your doctor or nurse may ask you to measure your child’s peak flow (see above) regularly. Know what your child’s peak flow should be and what to do if it’s low.
Inhalers, sometimes tablets, are usually prescribed to help manage the symptoms. There are many different types of inhalers available and the one prescribed for your child will depend on their age, ability to use a certain device and the severity of their symptoms.
These should be taken only when needed, such as during colds, when coughing, wheezing or having difficulty breathing.
They help to open the airways and help your child to breathe.
Sometimes, after an asthma attack, you may be told by your doctor to give your child the reliever inhaler regularly and wean down gradually.
These need to be taken everyday – even when your child is well.
Inhalers – (brown-beclometasone or orange-flixotide)
These are steroid inhalers that help control the inflammation in your child’s airways and help to prevent further asthma attacks.
Preventer granules or chewable tablet (montelukast, singulair)
These also help to control the inflammation in your child’s airways but they are not steroids.
All children susceptible to asthma should have a spacer device and reliever inhaler to use during an asthma attack.
At every asthma visit or review, your doctor or nurse will check you are happy using your inhaler, so take it with you to every appointment.
A spacer will help deliver the inhaler medicine deep into your child’s airways.
Each puff of the inhaler must go into the spacer separately and breathe in and out at least 6 times for each puff.
If your child has a cough, cold or wheeze, their chest feels tight or they feel out of breath.
Give the blue inhaler through the spacer – 2-6 puffs up to 4 hourly.
If your child needs their blue inhaler every 4 hours, is coughing all the time or feels too wheezy or breathless to play ot eat, then give an extra 2 puffs of the blue inhaler every 2 minutes until they feel better – up to a maximum of 10 puffs.
Most people can manage asthma at home and don’t need to go to hospital, but sometimes the symptoms can flare up in response to triggers, even when you follow your child’s asthma plan – this is called an asthma attack and your child may need to go to hospital.
If you notice any of these signs:
It’s very important for you get help quickly if your child is having an asthma attack. Don’t hesitate to call 999. If you have to go to A&E, take their written asthma action plan with you.