Asthma is a chronic disease of decreased lung function due to airway obstruction caused by certain triggers.  Diagnosing asthma can be difficult.  A single episode of wheezing does not constitute asthma.  Furthermore, not all wheezing is caused by asthma.  And finally, asthma can present with and be characterized by symptoms other than wheezing, including breathlessness, chest tightness and cough (especially nighttime and early morning cough).

Asthma attacks can have numerous triggers.  Common triggers in children include viruses (colds), allergies (seasonal, environmental, food--pets, dust, pollen), tobacco exposure, exercise or inhalation of irritatants (e.g. chemical fumes, perfumes).  History of asthma in the family (especially a parent) increases the chances of a child developing asthma.

In an asthma attack, your child has difficulty moving air in and out of his/her lungs.  The airways resemble clogged pipes, swelling, shrinking in open diameter, and then becoming futher restricted by mucus in the air passages.  

Asthma therapies are designed to address the mechanisms causing the symptoms.  Inflammation is the underlying basis of an asthma flare.  This inflammation then causes the muscles lining the airways to constrict and tighten.  Steroids, either inhaled or oral, decrease the inflammation.  Bronchodilators (e.g. albuterol) relax the airway muscles.  It is very important to understand the difference between steroids (controller medicines) and bronchodilators (rescue medicines).  Bronchodilators work quickly during an acute asthma attack to provide relief.  Steroids take longer to work and will not provide prompt relief of the symptoms.  

Our office has an asthma booklet that can provide more detailed descriptions and images to help you better understand your child's condition.  Learning how to manage a complex condition like asthma requires time, experience and education. We often conduct asthma education visits with patients and/or parents.

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Silver Spring Pediatrics
Drs. DeConcini, Schooler, Zang, Wang, Yee & Marcus