|Wednesday, February 18th, 2009||| CWK Producer|
“It’s most likely a virus, because in this time of year, that’s the most likely reason for children to begin to wheeze.”
– Dr. Cedric Miller, Emergency Pediatrics, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
Five-year-old Isabella has had breathing problems since she was a toddler … but never this bad.
So she goes to the ER, where her mom explains her symptoms to the doctor. “Just real exhausted and she was still [doing] that heavy breathing where, even at her neck it was sucking as she was breathing, and very rapid breathing.
They give her steroids and put her on a bronchodilator.
“Cough for me right now,” urges the respiratory therapist. Just like that, I need you to cough three times. Good job.”
What triggered this particular episode of wheezing?
“It’s most likely a virus because in this time of the year, that’s the most common reason for children to begin to wheeze,” says Dr. Cedric Miller, emergency pediatrician for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
A cold virus can bring additional congestion. That’s why the doctor says in the winter, parents need to be extra vigilant. When a child starts to cough or wheeze, “That is a signal that if you have asthma,” says Dr. Miller. “You should probably start your asthma medications. And if you’re already on asthma medications, that you should increase the frequency of those asthma medications.”
Isabella’s blood-oxygen level is only at 90-percent. “At 90-percent saturation,” explains Dr. Miller, “you are usually in some distress. People describe it as feeling as if they’re suffocating. They’re just not able to get enough air in. And more importantly, they’re not able to push that air out.”
So she’ll have to stay in the hospital for a few days. “But she’ll do well,” says Dr. Miller. “She’s got a parent who cares, and I’m sure she’ll get to her pediatrician and get taken care of in the way she should, after she’s discharged.”
Asthma is the most common serious chronic disease during childhood. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) cites the following statistics about asthma and children:
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), the number of children with asthma in the United States has more than doubled in the past 15 years. Consider these additional facts about asthma from the National Center for Environmental Health:
The AAAAI defines asthma as a chronic, inflammatory disease of the airways. The tubes that bring air to the lungs are constantly swollen and inflamed, making it difficult for air to move in and out freely. Those airways are also sensitive to certain triggers, which can vary from person to person. It is difficult to predict who will develop asthma and who won’t, but studies have shown that certain factors are associated with the onset of asthma symptoms in children:
While the cause of asthma remains unknown, certain factors appear to increase a person’s chances of developing the disease. The National Asthma Campaign cites the following factors that might contribute to the prevalence of the disease:
Although asthma is very common among children, it is also a very individualized disease. No two people have exactly the same symptoms or outcomes. The bottom line, according to the AAAAI, is for parents to watch and listen to their children.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology offers the following tips for parents of asthmatic children:
A child’s physician must rely heavily on parents’ observations to determine the signs and to make a proper diagnosis. Experts at the Mayo Clinic say that diagnosing asthma can be difficult because symptoms can range from mild to very severe and are often similar to those of other lung conditions. In diagnosing asthma, you can expect the pediatrician to perform a complete medical history and physical exam. In many cases, a lung (pulmonary) function test may be used to determine how much air moves in and out as your child breathes.
If your child is diagnosed with asthma, your doctor will recommend a course of treatment based on your child’s age and the persistence of the symptoms. In general, three types of medical treatments are available for asthmatics:
While medications and shots may help, the best way to prevent asthma attacks is to identify and avoid indoor and outdoor allergens or triggers. The American Academy of Family Physicians suggests the following tips for minimizing asthma triggers in your home:
An additional trigger for those children living in cities or highly populated areas may be air pollution. If you and your family live in an area with a high concentration of air pollution, you should talk to your doctor about adding vitamin C and E supplements to your child’s diet. The National Library of Medicine and Ohio State University cite the following foods that contain vitamins C and E:
In determining the correct amount of vitamin C and E intake for your child, it is important that you consult your child’s health-care provider.