KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), a member of the SingHealth group shares tips on how to manage asthma in children.

Asthma: What it is

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the lower airways of the lungs. It is very common worldwide. In Singapore, about one in five children has asthma.

Asthma attack: What happens

During an asthma attack, exposure to triggers result in inflammation of the airways. The airways become narrowed and clogged with mucus. Inflammation may still be ongoing even if you do not observe any signs or symptoms.

Asthma attack: What causes it

Asthma attacks result from sensitive airways that react to triggers. These triggers may differ from person to person. Avoidance of triggers is important. Some common triggers include:

  • Infections, including the common cold and flu
  • Allergens like house dust mites, animal dander, pollen, indoor mould
  • Weather changes due to change in temperature or humidity
  • Air pollution e.g. from cigarette smoke, haze

Asthma: Medications to take

There are two main types of asthma medications:

Preventers: These work slowly to control the chronic inflammation, making airways less sensitive to triggers. Use these medicines/inhalers daily unless instructed to stop by the doctor - this is important in the management of asthma.

Relievers: These work rapidly to open the airways, providing quick relief of asthma symptoms. They should only be used when needed.

All metered-dose inhalers (MDIs) should be used together with a spacer as children may not be able to coordinate the inhalation process properly.

How to better manage your child's asthma

  • Keep your child away from smokers and smoke-filled environments
  • Avoid giving your child cold drinks and citrus fruits when he's unwell
  • Try to get the child to rest during acute phases.

Consult your doctor if your child exhibits the following symptoms:

  • Remains breathless despite medications
  • Is unable to feed or take fluids well
  • Is unable to speak in complete sentences
  • Is drowsy, unresponsive and lethargic, or irritable and difficult to calm.

Always remember to bring your inhaler, spacer and action plan every time you visit the clinic or hospital.

Inhaler and spacer: How to use

Inhaler and spacer: How to clean 

  • Clean the spacer once a week
  • Soak the spacer in mild soapy water (2-3 drops of dishwashing liquid). This will reduce static charge of the spacer to allow better delivery of the inhaled medicines to the lungs. Do not rinse again! Allow the spacer to drip dry
  • Do not use scrub or tissue paper to clean or dry the spacer.
  • Wash the plastic holder of the puffer/inhaler once a week under warm running water and air dry plastic holder thoroughly before use