TMH Living Well Column: Could your child’s reoccurring cough be asthma?
May 9, 2014
Does it seem like your young child always has a cold or cough? Does she often cough at night? Has she been diagnosed with chronic bronchitis or recurring respiratory infections?
If so, it might be time to get her evaluated for asthma.
"Preschoolers are the most commonly underdiagnosed group of children when it comes to asthma. Asthma may oftentimes present as a recurrent cough or bronchitis, or sometimes as a recurrent respiratory infection. It also disguises itself as a chronic nighttime cough or as decreased energy and shortness-of-breath with activity," said Dr. Kristie Yarmer, pediatrician with TMH Medical Clinic.
Identifying asthma in kids
If you notice the above symptoms or your child complains of shortness of breath, wheezing or chest tightness, talk to your doctor.
"It is important for physicians to get an accurate past medical history, including a history of respiratory illnesses that were prolonged or moved into the chest, eczema, and a family history of asthma — especially if a child presents without any wheezing, which can make it harder to diagnose," Yarmer added.
Asthma and allergies can work hand-in-hand to trigger asthma symptoms — when dust, pollen or pet dander trigger asthma, it's allergy-induced asthma. In some people, skin or food allergies also can cause asthma symptoms.
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In recent years, the prevalence of asthma has increased. Why this has happened is up for debate.
"There are several theories out there on why asthma rates are increasing. One is the 'hygiene hypothesis,' which basically means that the world is becoming 'too clean' and kids are not being exposed to germs so their bodies don't recognize the difference between things that are harmful and not harmful. Other theories are that certain medications may contribute to the rising trend. Increased obesity has been suggested as a contributing factor as well," said Dr. Kelly Follett, pediatrician with TMH Medical Clinic.
Treating asthma in kids
If your child recently was diagnosed with asthma, rest assured — you have help right here at home.
The Memorial Hospital can help you learn about asthma and manage your child's symptoms. Ask your physician for a prescription, and call 970-826-3270 for more information.
"Asthma treatment is a team effort that involves the physician, parents, child and a specialist if needed. At TMH Medical Clinic we have certified asthma educators who help teach parents about asthma, the signs of an asthma exacerbation, and how to use medications and equipment prescribed by their physician," Yarmer said.
One of the first steps in treating asthma is identifying triggers. Common allergies, viral infections of the airways, and environmental irritants such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, odors and cold, dry air can initiate asthma symptoms.
"Identifying patients' triggers helps them to avoid triggers and also to prepare when they know they will be exposed — using an inhaler to stop symptoms at the first sign before they get out of hand," said Anessa Kopsa, RRT, CPFT, AE-C, Certified Asthma Educator at TMH.
Asthma educators at TMH create an Asthma Action Plan for each patient — adults and children alike. The plan includes how to recognize symptoms, use medications and equipment and how to monitor breathing and what to do at each stage of their symptoms.
Kopsa recommends including your child in the management of his own symptoms for the best outcome.
"We offer one-on-one asthma education for any patient with a prescription from a doctor. When well managed, kids can lead a very normal and active life. Some Olympic athletes even have asthma," Kopsa said.
This weekly article with tips on living well is sponsored by The Memorial Hospital at Craig – improving the quality of life for the communities we serve through patient-centered healthcare and service excellence.