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2/8/23 blog post

when to be concerned about asthma

Girl with asthma

in this article:

Asthma is a recurring breathing problem characterized by swelling (inflammation) of the breathing tubes (airways) that make them more likely to spasm and produce excess mucus. When the breathing tubes are inflamed and narrowed, it causes the child to cough and have trouble breathing. Asthma happens to be one of the most common reasons parents bring their child to the emergency department, but is emergency care always needed? Daniel Evans, MD, division chief of pediatric pulmonology shared his recommendations for avoiding asthma flare ups and when you should take your child to the emergency department.

what are the common causes of asthma?

The exact cause of asthma is unknown, but studies have shown that the following factors play an important role in its development.

  • Family history - if a parent has asthma, their child is three to six times more likely to develop asthma than a child with parents who do not have asthma.
  • Allergies - certain allergic conditions, such as eczema, hay fever or food allergies, are linked to people who get asthma.
  • Viral respiratory infections - some children who experience certain severe viral respiratory infections go on to develop chronic asthma.
  • Smoking - if a child is exposed to tobacco smoke or their mother smoked during pregnancy, they have an increased chance of developing asthma.
  • Air pollution - children living in areas with high pollution levels are more at risk for developing asthma.

what can I do to help my child avoid an asthma flare up?

An asthma flare up, also known as an asthma attack or episode, is when asthma symptoms get worse, making it difficult to breathe. While there is no cure for asthma, there are ways to prevent and treat your child's symptoms.

  • Take medicine as prescribed - if your child's provider prescribed a medicine to control their asthma, ensure your child takes it as directed. This could be as frequent as every day.
  • Get vaccinated - respiratory infections like colds, influenza and COVID-19 can worsen asthma.
  • Follow an asthma action plan - an asthma action plan is developed with your child's provider. The goal of a good asthma action plan is to reduce or eliminate asthma attacks.
  • Avoid triggers - asthma triggers are things outside the body that can cause an asthma attack. What triggers an asthma episode for one person may not bother another person with asthma. Therefore, the first step to prevent an asthma attack is knowing your child's asthma triggers and finding ways to avoid them.

Below are the most common triggers for patients with asthma.

  • Smoke and e-cigarettes
  • Dust mites
  • Pets
  • Pests
  • Mold
  • Indoor/outdoor pollutants and irritants
  • Weather
  • Pollen
  • Exercise
  • Stress
  • Cold, flu and infections

Learn more about triggers and how each type can affect your child.

when should I seek medical attention for my child?

If your child is unable to maintain good control over their asthma while following their asthma action plan, contact their pediatrician to schedule an appointment. The plan may need to be modified to make it successful for your child.

In some situations, your child's asthma may need emergency care. If any of the following situations occur, seek emergency care. If you are unsure, you should call your child's provider for direction. If your child is in distress, do not hesitate to call 911.

  • Your child took their asthma medication as directed an their flare up doesn't get better
  • Your child feels a little better after taking their medicine, but their symptoms come back quickly
  • Your child is persistently wheezing, having significant episodes of cough or chest pain
  • Your child's lips and fingernails are bluish or grayish in color
  • Your child has trouble breathing, talking or walking



Dan Evans 2022
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Daniel Evans, MD

division chief pulmonology
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