Are you the parent of an asthmatic child? If so, by now you well know the characteristic wheezing and cough that indicate it's time for the inhaler or a nebulizer treatment. However, the pediatrician may not have told you that there are several types of asthma. If your child's asthma is persistent and/or severe, you should schedule an appointment with an allergy specialist to further clarify your child's diagnosis and create a specific treatment plan.
About 10% of children in the United States have asthma, and more boys than girls are affected. Consider these facts:
In the course of a year, three out of five asthmatic kids have one or more acute episodes in which they have trouble breathing (these are commonly called asthma attacks).
More children than adults have asthma, and the condition is most common in non-Hispanic black children.
It is more prevalent among mixed-race children than it is in white children.
Including both children and adults, asthma claimed the lives of 3,404 people in 2010.
Four types of asthma
There are four types of asthma.
Understandably, people with asthma have difficulty breathing properly during strenuous exercise. However, exercise-induced asthma is a condition that occurs in people who do not usually experience asthma symptoms. Within 5 and 20 minutes of exertion, the person with this type of asthma begins to wheeze and cough, experience shortness of breath and feel unusually fatigued. This type of asthma can be managed with doses of asthma medication inhaled prior to exercise.
2. Viral-induced asthma
Viral-induced asthma occurs in two different scenarios:
in people without asthma who develop wheezing and coughing while infected with viral illnesses
in people with asthma whose symptoms worsen with a viral illness
Rhinovirus (the common cold) and Influenza A are the most likely culprits for this type of asthma. It is especially important to know whether your child has this type of asthma, because it can often lead to hospitalization. If your child has viral-induced asthma, you will need to start him/her on breathing treatments at the onset of every cold and flu.
3. Occupational asthma
While your child probably doesn't march off to work at a factory every day, he/she could still develop occupational asthma. This type is triggered by substances such as animal proteins (found in dander, hair, fur, and saliva), detergents containing certain enzymes, plant substances (including flour, cereals, and wheat), and smoke. If your child has occupational asthma, you will have to remove the substances from the home. Treatment includes both oral and inhaled medications.
4. Nocturnal asthma
Nocturnal asthma, as the name implies, produces wheezing and coughing during nighttime hours. There are various reasons for this, including pet dander and dust mites in your child's bedding (especially if the dog or cat sleeps with your child). Another cause of nocturnal asthma is the naturally-occurring low point of certain hormones that prevent asthma symptoms; this happens between 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning. Treatment for this type of asthma involves creating a sleeping environment free of dust and dander, as well as using a humidifier for optimum moisture in the air.
It is important to understand the type of asthma from which your child suffers, so that the allergy specialist and your child's pediatrician can create the best plan to treat it. The plan may include steroidal inhalers to build up lung tissue, rescue inhalers for asthma attacks, use of air filters in environments that trigger attacks, and/or a change of sleeping location. With more information comes better symptom relief. Ask your child's pediatrician for a referral to an asthma and allergy specialist today.