Asthma and Your Child

April 16, 2012

Nearly one in five of Nevada County’s children under age 6 have been diagnosed with asthma. This chronic lung disease is a major concern of the First 5 Nevada County Children and Families First Commission, so we wanted to share important information with you. A child with asthma can lead a full, active and healthy life with good family education and a plan of action.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that makes your airways inflamed and creates breathing problems such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath. Asthma episodes can be mild, moderate, or even life threatening.

What are the symptoms of asthma?

The main symptoms of asthma are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Coughs lasting more than a week

It’s important to know that treatment can reverse asthma symptoms – treating even mild symptoms can keep symptoms from getting worse.

What causes an asthma episode?

Asthma episodes are “triggered” by environmental irritants, allergens and infections.

General Irritants

(Should be avoided by anyone with asthma)

  • tobacco smoke
  • spray deodorants, hair sprays, insect sprays, cleaning sprays
  • talcum powder, make-up, perfume
  • chalk dust, odors from markers
  • smog and other air pollution
  • car and truck exhaust
  • odors from cleaning fluids, paints, furniture polish, room fresheners

Allergic Triggers

(Avoid if your are allergic to them)

  • dust mites
  • cats, dogs and other furry pets
  • cockroaches
  • mold, mildew
  • smoke from burning wood or leaves

Other Triggers

  • colds, flu, sinus problems
  • exercise
  • bursts of emotion that affect breathing
  • some medicines

Tips about air pollution and asthma…

Research is now confirming that air pollution can trigger asthma. There is both good and bad ozone. The ozone layer over the earth is good, but ground-level ozone from vehicle emissions is bad ozone.

Our skies are blue in Nevada County, but we have a “bad” high ozone level, because of pollution that blows in from the Sacramento area and the Bay Area. Children, in particular, are susceptible to the effects of ozone because their lungs are still developing, their airways are narrower, their immune systems are not fully developed, and they are active outdoors. Ozone season is May through October, and air quality is usually worse in the afternoon when children are outside.

What can you do? Call the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District at 274-9360 to put your name on the health advisory list. You’ll receive an email when the ozone level is high enough that you may want to temporarily restrict your child’s activities.

Does my child have asthma?

Tell the doctor if your child …

1. Coughs a lot or has trouble breathing when:

  • Playing (during or after physical activity)
  • Sleeping (awakes coughing in the night or early morning)

2. Wheezes – noisy breathing or whistling sounds from the chest

3. When having trouble breathing, sometimes:

  • Skin pulls tight around the ribs and neck
  • Heartbeat or pulse is faster than usual

4. Has head colds that “go to the chest” and last more than 10 days

5. Has dry itchy skin, rashes or eczema

6. Has relatives with a history of asthma

7. Has gone to the emergency room for difficulty breathing

8. Has used medicine or an inhaler to breathe better

9. Coughs, wheezes or has a hard time breathing around:

  • pets – cats, dogs, birds
  • pests – cockroaches, mice
  • pollens – grass, trees, plants, weeds
  • wood smoke
  • perfumes – household sprays
  • house dust
  • tobacco smoke
  • molds and mildew
  • weather changes

These can be signs of asthma.

Asthma is a serious health problem, but it is treatable.

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