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Bronchial Asthma – Acute Attacks in Children



Bronchial asthma, also called asthma, is a chronic lung disease in which the airways that carry air into and out of the lungs become inflamed and narrow. In the United States, about 20 million people have asthma, nearly 9 million of them are children and asthma is the No.1 reason for children chronically missing school and acute asthma attacks are the most common cause of pediatric emergency room visits due to a chronic illness.

Causes of Bronchial Asthma

Asthma occurs when the airways in the lungs (bronchial tubes) become inflamed and constricted. The muscles of the bronchial walls tighten (bronchospasm), and the airways produce extra mucus that blocks them.

In children with asthma, the chronically inflamed and constricted airways become highly sensitive or reactive to triggers like :

  • Allergens – mold, pollen, animals
  • Irritants – cigarette smoke, air pollution
  • Weather – cold air, changes in weather
  • Exercise
  • Infections – flu, common cold

Exposure to these triggers results in progressively more inflammation and narrowing of the bronchial tubes.

Acute Asthmatic Attacks in Children

Children with asthma may experience symptoms of wheezing, coughing, tightness of the chest and trouble breathing, especially early in the morning or at night. When asthma symptoms become worse than usual, it is called an asthma attack. During an asthma attack, symptoms vary according to the severity:

  • Symptoms during a mild episode: A child may be breathless after physical activity such as walking. They can talk in sentences and lie down, and they may be agitated.
  • Symptoms during a moderate severe episode: A child may be breathless while talking. Infants have feeding difficulties and a softer, shorter cry.
  • Symptoms during a severe episode: the child is breathless during rest, not interested in feeding, sit upright, talk in words (not sentences), and are usually agitated.
  • Symptoms with imminent respiratory arrest (in addition to the aforementioned symptoms): The child is drowsy and confused. They may use abdominal muscles to breathe, there maybe widening of the nostrils when breathing, the child may have increased heartbeat, sweating and chest pain.

Treatment of the Acute Asthma Attack

The severity and duration of asthma attacks vary from person to person and attack to attack. An acute asthmatic attack should be treat at their earliest stages so as to prevent further complications.

It is of utmost importance that parents are educated about asthma and have a plan of action with regards to an acute asthma attack as this can be life threatening.

It is very important for parents to remember that if your child is experiencing an acute attack and they do not respond to their inhaler they need to be taken to the emergency room immediately, death can result from a prolonged asthma attack that is not give treatment correctly.

Correct management of your child’s asthma is the best way to prevent acute asthma attacks, ensure your child takes all his/her medication as prescribed, avoid triggers and monitor his asthma at all times. Prescribed medication for asthma treatment compromises quick-relief medicines to stop asthma symptoms and long-term control medicines to prevent symptoms. Asthma is a lung condition that cannot be cure but with correct intervention it can be controlled.

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