Asthma is a common lung condition that causes occasional breathing difficulties. It affects people of all ages and often starts in childhood, although it can also develop for the first time in adults.
There’s currently no cure, but there are simple treatments and most people with asthma can live normal lives.
- Wheezing (a whistling sound when breathing).
- Breathlessness or shortness in breath.
- A tight chest – when you inhale it may feel like something is tightening around your chest.
Many things can cause these symptoms, but they are more likely to be asthma if they:
- Happen often and keep coming back.
- Are worse at night and early in the morning.
- Seem to happen in response to an asthma trigger like exercise or an allergy (such as to pollen or animal fur).
There are a number of things that can trigger an exacerbation of your asthma symptoms:
- Infections like colds and flu.
- Allergies – such as to pollen, dust mites, animal fur or feathers.
- Smoke (including cigarette smoke), fumes and pollution.
- Medicines – particularly anti-inflammatory painkillers like ibuprofen and aspirin.
- Emotions, including stress, or laughter.
- Weather – such as sudden changes in temperature, cold air, wind, thunderstorms, heat and humidity.
- mould or damp.
Asthma can be treated in a number of different ways. You will need to speak to a healthcare professional about diagnosing your symptoms and then treatment plan will be put in place. Treatments can include:
- Complementary therapies – such as breathing exercises.
Managing your child’s asthma
Day to day life can present itself with challenges but when properly managed young people with asthma can live normal lives.
Watch this video to learn more about controlling children’s asthma.
Things you can do to support your child
- Help them to use their inhaler correctly. Asthma UK has information about using your inhaler, and you can ask a nurse or GP for advice if you’re still not sure.
- Encourage regular exercise.
- Make sure they are eating healthy – a balanced diet can help to control symptoms.
- Have received all their vaccinations. It is important your child receives an annual flu jab. Speak to your asthma nurse to find out more.
Outside of the home
Children with well controlled asthma are able to participate normally in school and nursery. However, it is important to make sure your child’s school has all the necessary information about their condition. You can share your child’s asthma care plan with the school staff.
Staff at the school should be able to recognise worsening asthma symptoms and know what to do in the event of an attack, particularly staff supervising sport or physical education.More information on managing Asthma at school or nursery
Sometimes your child’s condition can worsen and this can lead to an asthma attack. Following the right plan provided by a health care professional will greatly reduce the risk of this happening.
What are the symptoms of an asthma attack
If your child is having an asthma attack they might:
- find it hard to breathe,
- breathe more quickly,
- be unable to talk or walk or eat,
- wheeze and cough a lot,
- complain of a tight chest or a tummy ache,
- say their blue reliever inhaler isn’t helping, or they need it more than every four hours
- be unusually quiet.
What to do if your child is having an asthma attack
If you think your child is having an asthma attack, you should:
- Sit them upright (do not lie down) and try to take slow, steady breaths. Try to remain calm, as panicking will make things worse.
- Get them to take one puff of your reliever inhaler (usually blue) every 30 to 60 seconds, up to a maximum of 10 puffs.
- Call 999 for an ambulance if you do not have their inhaler with you, they feel worse despite using an inhaler, they do not feel better after taking 10 puffs or you’re worried at any point.
- If the ambulance has not arrived within 15 minutes, repeat step 2.
If their symptoms improve and you do not need to call 999, get an urgent same-day appointment to see a GP or asthma nurse.