How to Recognize Asthma Symptoms in Your Kids

About 8 percent of adults and 8 percent of children have asthma and it is considered the leading chronic disease in children, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Asthma accounts for 11 million doctor’s office visits, nearly 440,000 discharges from hospital inpatient care and 1.7 million ER visits each year, says the CDC.

May 7 is World Asthma Day, so designated by the Global Initiative for Asthma to improve awareness and treatment for asthmatics everywhere.

More than 60 million Americans overall have asthma and allergies. But diagnosing asthma in children is critical for preventing life-threatening episodes.

The most common asthma symptoms are coughing, especially at night; wheezing; shortness of breath; and chest tightness, pain or pressure. But a single episode of wheezing does not make you an asthmatic, emphasizes Javier Hiriart, M.D., a pediatrician and physician with Baptist Health Primary Care, Family Medicine Center at West Kendall Baptist Hospital.

Parents need to look out for repeated episodes involving these common symptoms prompted by different “triggers,” he said.

“That’s a very important point,” says Dr. Hiriart. “You normally see a repetitive pattern and from different stimuli. It could be something in the environment. It could be catching a cold or weather changes. It could be exercise. So look for a repetitive pattern of these recurrent symptoms, including chest pressure, the cough, and the wheezing.”

Parents should document or keep track of this repetitive pattern to relay the information to the child’s pediatrician.

In 2015, 47 percent of children age 18 and younger who had asthma reported having one or more asthma attacks in the past year, according to the latest data from the CDC. Yet the agency also reports that asthma episodes have declined in children from all races and ethnicities from 2001 through 2016 — indicating an increasing awareness about symptoms and triggers among parents.

Common Asthma Triggers

Asthma medicines, such as those taken by inhalers, are very safe and effective when used as directed. But there are common asthma triggers that can be avoided at home, in the office and in public places. Recognizing these triggers can prevent trips to the ER or serious episodes for both children and adults.

“If you or a family member has asthma, you can manage it with the help of your health care provider and by avoiding triggers,” says Dr. Hiriart.

Common asthma triggers, according to the CDC, include:

  • Tobacco smoke, including secondhand smoke;
  • Respiratory infections, such as the common cold;
  • Allergies;
  • Pets;
  • Mold;
  • Dust in the home;
  • Outdoor air pollution.

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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