An estimated 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma, many of them children. Asthma affects the bronchial tubes, or airways, causing them to become inflamed and to produce thick mucus. The airways are also overly sensitive, or hyperactive, causing the smooth muscle of the airways to tighten. The combination of intensity and inflammation narrows the airways, making it difficult for air to pass through. Asthma symptoms may be mild and occasional, or so severe that they limit a child's activity level and lung function. Although asthma is a chronic condition, it can be treated and controlled. Managing asthma symptoms can allow a child to maintain health and an active lifestyle.

All children diagnosed with asthma should follow an asthma control plan prescribed by their physician in order to control symptoms and flare-ups. Caregivers can help children manage their asthma symptoms by following several steps:

Identify and Control Asthma Triggers

Caregivers can work to identify triggers that lead to an asthma flare-up. Triggers may vary with the seasons and change as kids grow. Some common asthma triggers include allergens such as dust, pollen, mold, animal dander, foods, and medicines; viral infections including the common cold and flu; irritants such as smoke, air fresheners, paint fumes, hair spray, and perfumes; exercise; weather changes; and breathing in cold air. Learning to identify triggers can take time; but once identified, triggers can be avoided.

Anticipate and Prevent Flare-Ups

Children with asthma may have increasing airway pollution, but can not feel it. Their breathing may sound normal, even when airways are becoming inflamed and narrow. A doctor may instruct a caregiver to use an instrument called a peak flow meter to monitor their child's airways. A peak flow meter measures how much air a child is inhaling and exhaling. A drop in peak flow indicates inflation that precedes an asthma flare-up. Identifying this drop allows caregivers administrator treatment early.

Take Medication As Prescribed

Work with the child's doctor to develop an effective medication plan for controlling their asthma. Follow the doctor's instructions, and keep track of your child's symptoms. It may take some time and experimentation to find a medication plan that works.

Follow the Asthma Plan

A combination of doctor-prescribed medication, observation, and patient education can allow a family to control asthma flare-ups by beginning treatment early. A doctor provides a written, step-by-step plan highlighting exactly what to do between flare-ups, how to recognize when to treat early, and when to call the doctor for help.

Learn More

Patients and caregivers who learn the most about asthma are the most successful in controlling it. Many organizations can provide information about asthma, educational resources, and access to support groups that help kids and caregivers cope.