Asthma is one of the most common causes of hospital admissions and GP visits for young children, according to Asthma Australia. In the latest instalment of our Living Well series of healthy living tips from Bupa Global, we look at handling asthma in young children. Here, Dr Tim Ross, National Medical Director at Bupa Australia, explains how knowledge and a management plan can help take control of the chronic lung disease.
Signs and Symptoms
Babies under 12 months usually aren’t diagnosed with asthma. This is because their airways are still so narrow that wheezing may be normal. But once children are over 12 to 18 months, parents and a GP can usually spot the signs and symptoms of asthma. At this stage, a diagnosis and asthma action plan can be made. So, what are the signs? Parents might notice their child has a cough that flares up or doesn’t go away after a cold, their cough or breathing might sound wheezy or they might be short of breath. “Sometimes you can just see or hear it in their chest – that their muscles are working harder,” says Dr Ross; children might be short of breath or have less energy than usual, for example. He advises seeing your GP when you notice any of these symptoms, especially if they’re not normal for your child.
Dr Ross says your GP will talk to you about the different treatments available and how to prevent flare-ups. There are lots of different medications (relievers and preventers) to treat asthma – sprays, powder inhalers even a chewable preventer tablet. Dr Ross recommends administering asthma sprays through a spacer with a mask. It’s also the best way to get the medication into your lungs. He says it’s a good idea to let your child play with the spacer and mask to get used to it. “Asthma is one of those conditions where you get a direct benefit from taking your medication, so kids are normally pretty good,” he says.“They learn if they don’t want to feel bad they have to take their medication.”
Dr Ross says it’s important that parents understand their child’s asthma triggers, and use preventer medication to avoid flare-ups. “They might get wheezy when they get a cold,” he adds, “or they might get a cough in spring, or get short of breath easily.” Your GP will put together an asthma action plan with you to help prevent exacerbations. You can then plot out exactly what needs to happen if there are signs and symptoms of an asthma attack. “It’s just a matter of putting down what your kids’ triggers are, what to do when those triggers occur and when to escalate to an ambulance or hospital.” This can then be shared with schools and care providers, so everyone knows what to do in the event of an asthma attack. Dr Ross says the good news is that many kids who have asthma as a toddler grow out of it by the time they are five or six.
This article was brought to you by Bupa Global.
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This article first appeared in the Oct/Nov edition of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.
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