Asthma is a chronic lung disease characterized by episodes of breathing problems which include coughing, wheezing, tightness in the chest, and shortness of breath. It is the most common chronic childhood illness and the leading cause of school absences.
In normal breathing, the airways are open allowing air to move freely in and out of the lungs. When a person has an asthma episode, muscles around the airways tighten, the airway swells, and an excess of mucus is produced. This causes narrowing of the air passages leading to breathing problems resulting in difficulty getting air into and out of the lungs.
The cause of asthma is unknown. Every person with asthma has specific triggers and/or allergens which can bring on an asthma episode. Triggers are varied and may include viruses, cold air, exercise, tobacco smoke, molds, cats, dogs, and other furred animals, and feathered pets. Strong smells, household sprays, and even laughing or crying too hard may bring on an asthma episode.
Asthma can be controlled, but does require regular, long term medical care. Medications used to treat asthma include fast acting bronchodilators, such as Albuterol, which relax the muscles and open the airways. These medications are used for quick relief of an asthma episode. Other medications used to treat moderate to severe asthma are anti-inflammatory drugs. These medications reduce inflammation in the lungs and are taken daily.
The goal of asthma management is enjoy an active life, to participate in normal activities, and to sleep through the night uninterrupted.
Common signs of uncontrolled asthma:
Lingering cough after a cold
Persistent cough during the day
Coughing during the night or early in the morning
Coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, or shortness of breath after vigorous physical activity or activity in cold or windy weather
Low level of stamina during physical activity or reluctance to participate
Coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, or shortness of breath even though the child is taking medicine for asthma
Increased use of asthma medicine to relieve coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, or shortness of breath
Helps school nurse take better care of your child
Asthma Action Plan should be in writing and updated yearly by the physician submitted to the nurse's office by the start of the school year
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America - New England Chapter http://www.asthmaandallergies.org/