Children & Adolescents Clinic

 Home Parent's Guide

Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0
Spanish version

Asthma - Brief Version

For an illustration of the narrowing of the bronchioles in asthma, click here

What is asthma?

Asthma is a breathing problem. Your child may have often have attacks with wheezing (a high-pitched sound) and coughing. Your child's chest may feel tight. Asthma attacks can be triggered by viruses or pollens in the air.

How can I take care of my child?

  • Make sure your child uses the asthma inhaler your doctor prescribed. Teach your child how to use the inhaler. Here's how you can explain it to your child:
    • Shake the medicine.
    • Hold the inhaler up straight and 2 inches in front of your mouth.
    • Breathe out all your air.
    • Spray when you start to breathe in.
    • Breathe in slowly until your lungs are all filled up with air and the medicine.
    • Hold your breath for 10 seconds.
  • Use a spacer. If your child is less than 6 years old, it can help to use a plastic airway spacer.
  • Your child may need special treatments. Children less than 4 years old can't use inhalers. They need to use a machine for nebulized medicine treatment (nebs). Even older children get more of the medicine into their lungs using this machine rather than an inhaler.
  • Your child may also need to take medicine by mouth. Your doctor may prescribe an oral medicine.
  • Don't wait to start treatment. Start the inhaler or medicine when your child first coughs or wheezes.
  • Have your child use an inhaler before exercise. Your child may also cough or wheeze during exercise. Use an inhaler 10 minutes before your child plans to exercise.

How can I help prevent asthma attacks?

  • Make sure your child stays away from triggers like feather pillows, tobacco smoke, and pets.
  • Learn how to dust-proof your child's bedroom.
  • Have your child take a bath or shower. This can help if your child wheezes after being around grass, pollen, weeds, or animals.

Call your child's doctor right away if:

  • Your child has a hard time breathing or the wheezing is severe.
  • The wheezing does not get better after the second dose of inhaled asthma medicine.

Call your child's doctor within 24 hours if:

  • The wheezing is not completely gone in 5 days.
  • You have other questions or concerns.

Written by B.D. Schmitt, M.D., author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Copyright 1999 Clinical Reference Systems