Most people are aware that asthma is a chronic lung disease that causes those who are afflicted to suddenly have difficulty breathing when exposed to a trigger. The lining of their airways swells and the muscles surrounding the airways tighten and narrow, making it difficult for air to flow in and out of the lungs.
We tend to think of asthma as a condition that affects adolescents and adults because it is more likely to be first diagnosed between the ages of 5 and 17. However, asthma symptoms can start much sooner – as early as a child’s toddler years (1 to 3 years of age).
Although the exact cause of asthma is unknown, medical researchers believe it is an inherited trait that can also be triggered by factors such as the environment, infections, allergies, and exposure to things like tobacco smoke. Whatever the cause, it is important to recognize the signs of asthma in your child as early as possible, so it can be properly treated.
Asthma Symptoms in Toddlers
At a very young age, many children with asthma may have few, if any, symptoms, and they can occur differently in each child. However, when these signs and symptoms do flare up, they may include:
- A frequent cough that occurs during daytime, nighttime, or both
- A wheezing or whistling sound when your child breaths
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath when your child is active
- Chest tightness
Since these symptoms could be signs of another health condition, you should have your child examined by their healthcare provider for a definitive diagnosis.
Depending on your child’s age and clinical situation, there are tests that can help support a diagnosis of asthma, such as peak flow monitoring – which measures the amount of air a child can blow out of their lungs – allergy testing, and chest X-rays, and spirometry. For toddlers, however, your child’s pediatrician may simply base the diagnosis on medical and family history, signs and symptoms, and a physical exam.
Asthma Treatments for Toddlers
Treatment for asthma in children under the age of 5 will depend on their specific symptoms, their age, their general health, and the severity of their condition.
The treatment goals for toddlers with asthma include:
- Treating inflammation in the airways with daily medication to prevent asthma attacks
- Using short-acting drugs to treat attacks
- Avoiding or minimizing exposure to asthma triggers
- Maintaining a normal activity level
In terms of treatments for asthma in toddlers, options include:
- Long-term control or maintenance medications, such as inhaled corticosteroids, leukotriene modifiers, long-acting beta-agonist, cromolyn, or oral corticosteroids.
- Short-acting bronchodilators, such as albuterol (e.g., ProAir HFA, Ventolin HFA, etc.) and levalbuterol (e.g., Xopenex HFA).
- Medication delivery devices that help deliver medications to the lungs. Examples include a nebulizer or a valved holding chamber with a face mask that is attached to a metered dose inhaler.
Pediatric Primary Care in Purchase, NY
At Westchester Park Pediatrics, we offer a wide range of primary care services for children, from infancy to the adolescent years. Our dedicated team of board-certified pediatricians provides more than just routine checkups and non-emergency medical care; they also focus on preventive care to help keep your child from getting sick in the first place by providing:
- Newborn care
- Annual physicals
- Patient education on establishing a healthy lifestyle