All about asthma in children

How can I help my child better control his/her asthma?

The first thing to do is to avoid asthma triggers. Common triggers include house dust mites, air pollutants, viral infection, a change in the ambient temperature, food and drug allergies. It is also important to understand the type of asthma medication that is prescribed to your child; how it works to control the asthma. The first type is controller medication, which needs to be taken daily. The second type is reliever medication, which is taken only when asthma symptoms flare up.

You should also ask your doctor for a Written Asthma Action Plan, which tells you the type and dosage of medicine your child needs and when to take them. "Read, understand and follow the instructions on the action plan. Adjust your child’s medication according to the plan. Consult your doctor if the symptoms do not improve," says Dr Tan Ngiap Chuan, ​Director of Research at SingHealth Polyclinics​.​

How do I know if my child's asthma is under control?

You can use the Asthma Control Test to check if your child’s asthma is under control. There are a total of seven questions in the test. The first four questions assess the child’s asthma symptoms:

  1. How is your asthma today?
  2. How much of a problem is your asthma when you run, exercise or play sports?
  3. Do you cough because of your asthma?
  4. Do you wake up during the night because of your asthma?

The last three questions are for parents or caregivers:

  1. During the last four weeks, how many days did your child have daytime asthma symptoms?
  2. During the last four weeks, how many days did your child wheeze during the day because of asthma?
  3. During the last four weeks, how many days did your child wake up during the night because of asthma?

These questions objectively assess if a child’s asthma is under control. However, it is important for parents or the caregiver to keep a diary of the child’s asthma symptoms.

Can my asthmatic child engage in physical activity?

If the child is not well and has asthma symptoms, he should rest and avoid strenuous exercises. If the asthma attacks are frequently caused by exercise, the child should take reliever medication before exercising to open up the airways. If the child is well and his asthma is under control, he can engage in any physical activity or sports that he likes.

Can inhalers affect my child’s growth and development?

Many parents and caregivers are worried about the side effects of inhaled asthma medication. They are particularly worried about the effect of inhaled medication on their child’s growth and development. However such side effects usually result from the inappropriate use of oral medication rather than inhaled medication. The dosage of inhaled medication is small and does not normally affect growth. Moreover, the doctor adjusts the dosage according to the child’s asthma control level. Inhaled medication might lead to white spots in the mouth, although they are not common. Parents can prevent this from happening by getting the child to rinse his/her mouth after inhalation.

Are traditional remedies useful in alleviating asthma symptoms?

Traditional remedies are passed down from generation to generation. This practice is widespread, especially among the Chinese. While there is no harm in consuming these foods (as long as they do not pose any health hazards), there is no medical evidence to prove that these remedies are effective in preventing or alleviating asthma.

Ref: U11