Spring flowers can take your breath away, and not just because their beauty is such a welcome break from winter landscapes.
“For children with asthma, the high pollen counts that come with spring can trigger an asthma attack which can lead to breathing trouble,” says James Davis, MD, a pediatrician with TriHealth’s Oxford Pediatrics.
During an asthma attack, the walls of the airway swells, produce excess mucus and narrow, limiting the amount of air that gets into the lungs. Asthma is a chronic condition, and attacks can vary from mild to severe enough that they require immediate medical attention. Pediatric asthma is a leading cause of emergency-department visits and absences from school.
Common Triggers of Asthma
Allergic reactions to environmental triggers, such as pollen or pet dander, can cause asthma attacks. Exposure to smoke and cold air also can trigger attacks, as can physical expressions of emotion (laughing or yelling, for example).
Many children with asthma experience symptoms when they’re physically active, a condition called exercise-induced bronchospasm. Your child’s doctor can help devise an action plan that makes participating in sports safe, for example by using an an inhaler before physical activity, or even prescribing a controller/preventive medicine to take regularly even before the symptoms start.
“Exercise can actually strengthen airway muscles, improving their function,” Dr. Davis says.
The exact cause of pediatric asthma is unknown, but research suggests interplay between the immune system and early exposure to environmental irritants. Genetics may also play a role.
Though there’s no known cure for asthma, most serious effects are avoidable with proper treatment. Your child’s doctor can help you identify triggers and develop an action plan to share with school personnel. Medications can help prevent attacks by reducing inflammation in the airways, and inhalers can be used to relax the muscles around the airways during an attack.
In some children with environmental allergies, immunotherapy (allergy shots) can help reduce asthma symptoms, making it easier for children and parents alike to relax and enjoy the many pleasures of spring.
Since asthma affects breathing, it can be deadly in a worst-case scenario. Dr. Davis said he urges parents to pay close attention to severe symptoms and seek immediate medical assistance such as the emergency room if children diagnosed with asthma display these symptoms:
- So out of breath they can’t finish a sentence
- Wheezing nonstop
- Breathing with the help of stomach muscles
- Flaring nostrils while breathing
- Showing changes in facial color such as bluish lips
Consult your child’s pediatrician if you suspect asthma. Symptoms to watch for include:
- Frequent cough
- Coughing triggered by laughing, running or night-time
- Trouble breathing, shortness of breath, rapid breathing
- Chest pain, tightness
- Poor sleep
- Breathing trouble that limits play