For many children with asthma, coughing is an early warning sign of a flare-up, an expert says.
Understanding asthma and knowing what to expect can help parents prevent or lessen the severity of asthma attacks, said Dr Ronald Ferdman, a paediatric allergist-immunologist at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.
With proper management, children with asthma can exercise normally, sleep well at night, attend school and avoid the emergency room. Parents shouldn't settle for less, Ferdman said.
He provided the following tips to help parents protect their children's health:
Know the triggers
It's important to minimise children's exposure to asthma triggers you can control, such as tobacco smoke, dust and pet dander. Colds and weather changes are out of your control, but knowing they can exacerbate asthma can keep you ahead of flare-ups.
Don't limit physical activity
In general, it's better to give children a dose of their quick-relief medication (albuterol or levalbuterol) before they exercise and sometimes afterwards.
Store quick-relief medicine at every location where your child spends time, including school, home or day care. Refill these prescriptions before they run out.
Don't wait to medicate
Any respiratory symptoms, such as coughing, may be an early sign of an asthma flare-up. Don't wait until a child is wheezing to give asthma medication. It is safer to give children a dose of their rescue medicine early – even if it's not entirely clear if their asthma is flaring up – than to wait until symptoms become severe. Lung infections are the most common trigger of asthma attacks in children. Kids with asthma should get a dose of their quick-relief medication as soon as they develop symptoms of a cold.
Stick to the treatment plan
Taking controller (preventative) medication each day is the most effective way to control chronic asthma. Children should take this medication even if they don't have symptoms. This simply means their treatment is working. Stopping this medication without talking to a child's doctor is risky.
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