Bronchial asthma for child
The child with asthma experiences tightness in the chest and has difficulty breathing during an attack because the smooth muscle of the lungs goes into spasm and swells. Thick, sticky mucus is released which blocks the bronchial tubes. This causes wheezing and makes it difficult to breathe out, often resulting in the characteristic ‘pigeon chest’. The tendency to asthma is inherited from someone in the child’s family suffering from hay fever, eczema, ‘wheezy chest’ and other allergic symptoms. More boys than girls are affected, and most children with asthma have eczema at some time. Although the severity of the eczema does not appear to influence the course of the asthma, attacks seem to occur when the eczema is not active. When it flares up the child is not likely to have an asthma attack. Although asthma can appear at any time, if wheezing starts before the age of two the chances of the child out-growing it are less than if it starts later.
In most cases, however, attacks are mild, respond to simple treatment and never develop into anything serious enough to require hospitalisation. Although it is not possible to predict if the child will outgrow these attacks, up to 90 per cent do so by the age of 14. Even if the attacks are mild and infrequent, it is important that they be treated so that the lungs are not damaged. Do not use patent over-the-counter ‘cures’ as they often contain potassium iodide which can be very harmful.
Allergy plays an important role as a trigger in asthmatic attacks, but a wide array of other triggers such as exercise, infections, chemicals, smoke, the weather, emotional disturbances, the house dust mite and even laughter can bring them on. Sulphur dioxide used as a preservative in juices and cold drinks can cause a reaction which makes the throat tighten and causes coughing which can start an attack. It is important to watch an attack carefully, especially if it does not pass in a few hours, but there is no reason to treat the child like an invalid and allow her to dominate the whole family’s way of life.
Drugs like olisodium chromoglycate given before exercise can prevent attacks and allow the child to take part in sport. Used under doctor’s supervision they will not harm the child and should be made use of. Broncho dilators which are inhaled into the lungs are effective in preventing and treating attacks. In more serious instances hospitalisation and treatment with corticosteroid and other drugs may be necessary. It is important that the child does not become dehydrated during a severe attack and frequent sips of an electrolyte solution (117) are usually given.