Asthma is a disease of the respiratory system. It causes swelling and narrowing of the air tubes inside the lungs. When this happens there can be coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. The narrowing comes from swelling and muscle spasm inside the air tubes. Asthma is a common illness of childhood. Knowing more about your child’s illness can help you handle it better. It can not be cured, but medications can help control it.


Inflammation (irritation in the lungs) of the airways is the cause of asthma, This is triggered by allergies, viral lung infections, or irritants in the air. Allergic reactions can cause your child to wheeze right away when exposed to allergens or many hours later. Continued inflammation may lead to scarring of the airways. This means that over time, the lungs will not get better because the scarring is forever. Asthma may also be passed down from (inherited) from the parents.


  • Wheezing and a lot of nighttime coughing are common signs of asthma.
  • Frequent or severe coughing with a simple cold is often a sign of asthma.
  • Chest tightness and shortness of breath. These can lead to a fussy younger child.
  • Early hidden asthma go unnoticed for long periods of time. This is especially true if your child’s caregiver can not hear wheezing with a stethoscope. Lung (pulmonary) function studies may help learn the cause.

Some Common Triggers For an Attack Are:

  • Allergies (animals, pollen, food, and molds),
  • Infection (usually viral). Antibiotics are not helpful for viral infections. They usually do not help with asthmatic attacks.
  • Exercise can trigger an attack in children with asthma. Proper pre-exercise medications allow most children to participate in sports.
  • Irritants (pollution. cigarette smoke, strong odors, aerosol sprays, paint fumes, etc.). SMOKING CANNOT BE ALLOWED IN HOMES OF CHILDREN WITH ASTHMA. Children can not be around smokers.
  • Weather changes. There is not one best climate for children with asthma. Winds increase molds and pollens in  the air. Rain refreshes the air by washing irritants out. Cold air may cause inflammation.
  • Stress and emotional upset. Emotional problems do not cause asthma but can trigger an attack. Anxiety, frustration, and anger may produce attacks. These emotions may also be produced by attacks.

Home Care Instructions

  • It is necessary to remain very calm during an asthma attack. The anxiety produced during a child’s asthmatic attack is best handled with reassurance. If any child with asthma seems to be getting worse and does not  respond to treatment, seek immediate medical care.
  • Control your home environment in the following ways:
    • Change your heating/air conditioning filter at least once a month.
    • Place a filter or cheesecloth over your heating/air conditioning vents.
    • Limit your use of fire places and wood stoves.
    • If you must smoke, smoke outside and away from the child. Change your clothes after smoking. Do not smoke in a car with someone with breathing problems.
    • Get rid of pests (roaches) and their droppings.
    • If you see mold on a plant, throw it away.
    • Clean your floors and dust every week. Use unscented cleaning products. Vacuum when the child is not home.
    • Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter if possible.
    • If you are remodeling, change your floors to wood or vinyl.Use allergy-proof pillows, mattress covers and box spring covers.
    • Wash bed sheets and blankets every week in hot water and dry in a dryer.
    • Use a blanket that is made of polyester or cotton with a tight nap.
    • Limit stuffed animals to one or two and wash them monthly with hot water and dry in a dryer.
    • Clean bathrooms and kitchens with bleach and repaint with mold-resistant paint. Keep child with asthma out of the room while cleaning.
    • Wash hands often.

Talk to your caregiver about an action plan for managing your child’s asthma attacks at home. This includes  the use of a peak flow meter that measures the severity of the attack and medications that can help stop the attack. An action plan can help minimize or stop the attack without having to seek medical care. Always have a plan prepared to get help right away. This should include calling your child’s caregiver, access to local emergency care, and calling (911 in U.S.) in case of a severe attack.

Seek Medical Care If:

  • There is wheezing and shortness of breath even if medications are given to prevent attacks.
  • An oral temperature above 101 degrees develops.
  • There are muscle aches, chest pain, or thickening of sputum.
  • The saliva changes from clear or white to yellow, green, gray, or bloody.
  • There are problems related to the medicine you are giving your child (such as a rash, itching, swelling, or trouble breathing).

Seek Immediate Medical Care If:

  • The usual medicines do not stop your child’s wheezing or there is increased coughing.
  • Your child develops severe chest pain.
  • Your child has a rapid pulse, hard time breathing or can not finish a short sentence.
  • There is a bluish color to the lips or fingernails.
  • Your child has a hard time eating, drinking or talking.
  • Your child acts frightened and you are not able to calm them down.

Document Released: 12/18/2006 Document Re·Released: 06/05/2009
ExitCare® Patient Information ©2009 ExitCare, LLC.