Asthma - what to ask your doctor - child
What to ask your doctor about asthma - child
Asthma is a problem with the airways that bring oxygen to your lungs. A child with asthma may not feel symptoms all the time. But when an asthma attack happens, it becomes hard for air to pass through the airways. The symptoms are:
- Chest tightness
- Shortness of breath
Below are some questions you may want to ask your health care provider to help you take care of your child's asthma.
Did you know that asthma is one of the most common disorders affecting children, as many as 10 percent of them? Thankfully, advances in the diagnosis and treatment of asthma have dramatically improved life for these children. Asthma is caused by swelling and other signs of inflammation in the airways. When an asthma attack occurs, the muscles surrounding the airways become tight and the lining of the air passages swells. This reduces the amount of air that can pass by the bronchioles, or small tubes, of the lung. Most asthma attacks are caused by triggers, such as pollen, dust mites, mold, pet dander, cockroaches, tobacco smoke, and exercise. Your child may have asthma if they experience shortness of breath, maybe gasp for air, and have trouble breathing out. When breathing gets very difficult, the skin of your child's chest and neck may suck inward. Your child may cough so hard at night he wakes from sleeping. He may have dark bags under his eyes and feel tired and irritable. Your child's doctor will listen to your child's lungs. The doctor will have your child breathe into a device called a peak flow meter. This device can tell you and your child's doctor how well the child can blow air out of his lungs. If asthma is narrowing and blocking your child's airways, his peak flow values will be low. To treat your child with asthma, you will need to work with your child's pediatrician, pulmonologist, or allergist as a team. Your child will need an action plan that outlines his asthma triggers and how to avoid them, how to monitor his symptoms, measuring peak flow, and taking medicines. You should have an emergency plan that outlines what to do when your child's asthma flares up, at home and in school. Make sure the school has a copy of your child's asthma action plan too. Your child will probably need to take two kinds of medicines, long-term control medicines and quick relief or rescue medicines. Your child will take long-term control medicines every day to prevent asthma symptoms, even when he has none. Your child will need to use quick relief medicines during an asthma attack. If your child needs to use an inhaler with his medicines, make sure the doctor shows him how to use a spacer device, to get the medicine into his lungs properly. Today, most children with properly managed asthma can lead a life unhindered by their disease. It shouldn't hold them back from even the highest levels of athletic competition. With proper education and medical management, it is possible to control this disease on a daily basis and prevent asthma attacks.
Is my child taking asthma medicines the right way?
- What medicines should my child take every day (called controller drugs)? What should I do if my child misses a day?
- Which medicines should my child take when they are short of breath (called rescue drugs)? Is it OK to use these rescue drugs every day?
- What are the side effects of these medicines? For what side effects should I call the doctor?
- How will I know when the inhalers are getting empty? Is my child using the inhaler the right way? Should my child be using a spacer?
What are some signs that my child's asthma is getting worse and that I need to call the doctor? What should I do when my child feels short of breath?
What shots or vaccinations does my child need?
How do I find out when smog or pollution is worse?
What sort of changes should I make around the home?
- Can we have a pet? In the house or outside? How about in the bedroom?
- Is it OK for anyone to smoke in the house? How about if my child is not in the house when someone is smoking?
- Is it OK for me to clean and vacuum when my child is in the house?
- Is it OK to have carpets in the house?
- What type of furniture is best to have?
- How do I get rid of dust and mold in the house? Do I need to cover my child's bed or pillows?
- Can my child have stuffed animals?
- How do I know if I have cockroaches in my home? How do I get rid of them?
- Can I have a fire in my fireplace or a wood-burning stove?
What does my child's school or daycare need to know about my child's asthma?
- Do I need to have an asthma plan for the school?
- How can I make sure my child can use the medicines at school?
- Can my child participate fully in gym class at school?
What types of exercises or activities are better for a child with asthma to do?
- Are there times when my child should avoid being outside?
- Are there things that I can do before my child starts exercising?
Does my child need tests or treatments for allergies? What should I do when I know my child will be around something that triggers their asthma?
What type of arrangements do I need to make when we are planning to travel?
- What medicines should I bring? How do we get refills?
- Who should I call if my child's asthma gets worse?
Dunn NA, Neff LA, Maurer DM. A stepwise approach to pediatric asthma. J Fam Pract. 2017;66(5):280-286. PMID: 28459888
Jackson DJ, Lemanske RF, Bacharier LB. Management of asthma in infants and children. In: Burks AW, Holgate ST, O'Hehir RE, et al, eds. Middleton's Allergy Principles and Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 50.
Lieu AH, Spahn AD. Sicherer SH. Childhood asthma. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap169.
Last reviewed on: 10/22/2022
Reviewed by: Charles I. Schwartz, MD, FAAP, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, General Pediatrician at PennCare for Kids, Phoenixville, PA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.