At Cornerstone Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, we know the keys to excellent asthma care are patient and family education and working together with patients and their families to develop an effective Asthma Action Plan. The information on this page is an important resource for all our patients and families with asthma.
Asthma is a common childhood disease affecting about 10% of children. It tends to run in families with asthma, eczema, or allergies. Technically speaking, asthma is recurrent reversible wheezing caused by inflammation of the small airways in the lung.
In plain words, that means when you’re exposed to something that irritates your lungs, your breathing gets difficult due to swelling and narrowing of your airways and excess mucous in your lungs. These symptoms can be prevented or relieved by asthma medications when they’re used correctly.
Asthma exacerbations (attacks) happen when an environmental trigger causes increased inflammation. Common asthma triggers include illnesses like a cold or the flu, something you’re allergic to like pollen or pets, or an irritant like pollution or cigarette smoke.
In order to be diagnosed with asthma, you would have to have several episodes of wheezing that get better with medications like Albuterol. If you suspect that you or your child has asthma, schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Some people with asthma have mild disease and only need to take medicine when their asthma flares up with a viral illness or exposure to an environmental trigger, and others need daily medication to control symptoms and prevent serious complications. Whether your symptoms are mild or severe, occasional or daily, anybody can have a severe asthma attack under the right circumstances. That’s why it’s so important for you and your doctor to work together to make an Asthma Action Plan. It’s also vitally important to recognize your or your child’s asthma symptoms.
Common Symptoms of Asthma Include:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty blowing the air out of your lungs
- Wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe out. usually heard with a stethoscope)
- Chest tightness or pain
- Waking at night due to breathing difficulty
- A drop in your peak flow meter reading (if you use one)
Not everyone’s asthma symptoms are the same. You or your child may have only one symptom or many symptoms. Our goal is to help you and your child recognize and treat symptoms as early as possible so that asthma doesn’t keep you/your child from living life to the fullest. Most people with asthma need to have an asthma check-up every 3 to 6 months.
How Do You Know If Your Asthma Is Well-Controlled?
- Do you have asthma symptoms more than two times a week?
- Do you take your rescue (quick-relief) medicine more than two times a week?
- Do you wake up from asthma more than two times a month?
- Have you been prescribed oral corticosteroids more than two times a year?
If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, your asthma is not well controlled. Schedule an asthma check with your doctor.
Go to the Emergency Room or Call 911 When:
- Rescue medication fails to relieve shortness of breath or severe continuous cough.
- Shortness of breath or severe continuous cough is relieved with medication but returns quickly after 15–20 minutes.
- There are changes in your/your child’s color, like bluish or gray lips and fingernails.
- You or your child has trouble talking and can’t speak in full sentences.
- The areas below the ribs, between the ribs, and in the neck visibly pull in during inhalation (retractions).
Asthma Education Resources:
How to use an inhaler with a spacer for young children. Even young children can use a metered dose inhaler (MDI) rather than a nebulizer to deliver asthma medications. However, they always need to use a mask and a spacer (holding chamber) with asthma inhalers.
How to use an inhaler for older kids and teens. Even teens and adults should use a spacer with their metered dose inhalers (MDIs) to ensure the proper delivery of their medication and help prevent side effects.
How to use a nebulizer. Infants and young children may get medication through a nebulizer in the office or during their first few attacks, but will eventually switch to using an inhaler with a spacer (holding chamber) at home and school because they’re much quicker to use and can be carried with you easily.
Medications used to treat asthma Make sure you and all your child’s caregivers know your/your child’s medications and how and when they are used! It’s important to know which medication is a controller medication like budesonide, Singulair, Flovent, Advair, Pulmicort, Symbicort, and QVAR, or a rescue (quick-relief) medication like albuterol, ProAir HFA, Proventil HFA, and Ventolin HFA. (Older kids may be using a combination inhaler like Budesonide/Formoterol (Symbicort) for both control and treatment.)
Asthma Action Plan for home and school pdf We can provide an asthma action plan for you/your child at an asthma check-up. Make a copy of this for all your caregivers and your school/workplace.
What is exercise-induced asthma? Asthma can be worse when you exercise. Some people ONLY have symptoms when they exercise. Whether you’re an elite athlete or just participating in PE class, we need to make sure your symptoms are controlled when you exercise.
How to tell if your inhaler is empty 12% or asthmatics are using empty inhalers without knowing it! Some inhalers come with dose counters, and others don’t. If your inhaler doesn’t seem to be working as well, or you’ve lost count of your doses, or if it’s been more than a year since your last refill, get a replacement by calling your pharmacy. Don’t end up in the ER because of an empty inhaler!