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If you’re not a parent, grandparent, or caregiver of a child with asthma, chances are you know someone who is. In Michigan, asthma is pretty common.
But What is Asthma and How is it Treated?
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory airway disease that can be caused by allergy and/or genetic susceptibility. “Children with asthma have difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, and wheezing, which can happen with viral infection or during exercise. Parents typically sense something is amiss when their young child struggles to keep up with peers because of shortness of breath, or if the child starts wheezing when they get colds and upper respiratory infections. Persistent wheezing should be evaluated by a specialist early on to prevent it from becoming a more severe form of the disease
Could Your Child’s Asthma be Caused by Allergies?
Allergens are common triggers for asthma. Allergens can also cause seasonal allergies. “If your child has frequent cold-like symptoms, runny nose, congestion, sneezing but no fever, this could be caused by allergy triggers
In some cases, parents are simply unaware of the trigger, and will only notice a problem when their child doesn’t sleep well at night and experiences poor performance at school as a result. “If you suspect any kind of symptoms, talk with your doctor to get a referral to an allergy and asthma specialist, which will help you identify the trigger faster and prevent a worsening of symptoms,
A specialist may perform a non-invasive allergy scratch test using a plastic toothpick-like instrument on the back for seasonal allergies and on the forearm for food allergies. “It’s less painful than a blood draw or a vaccine and we can read the results in 15-20 minutes. Patients leave with a diagnosis
To test for asthma, the specialist will perform a pulmonary function test, typically in older children. “This is a machine with a tube the child blows into that evaluates lung function
How is Asthma Treated?
A specialist may prescribe an inhaler to reduce or treat asthma symptoms, and, if asthma is caused by allergies, your child can take allergy medicines in the form of a liquid, pill, or nasal spray. Allergy shots can be successful, too. “Some patients who receive shots regularly can stop the pathology of the symptoms, with a very high success rate
A newer way to treat asthma is monoclonal antibody treatment, which “binds to the antibodies or receptors that cause asthma/allergy problems. this treatment is injected subcutaneously in a similar way to insulin. “This can reduce hospital admissions and asthma attacks, and helps severe asthma and eczema significantly.”
When a child’s asthma is under control, it can decrease the likelihood of hospitalization or trips to the emergency department with asthma symptoms. “Having asthma doesn’t mean a child has less quality of life than their peers. A child with asthma can have zero symptoms with proper management with the right medications and avoiding triggers.”