Asthmatic bronchitis is on the rise. The reason for this increase is unknown. Some experts believe worsening atmospheric pollution and increasing allergens are the cause. Others believe that our homes have become too clean, and that our children are not exposed to enough allergens while growing up.
Childhood and infant asthma affects an estimated ten percent of children in the Western hemisphere. These statistics are indeed a cause for concern for both parents and the medical profession.
Although asthma medications and asthma treatments are becoming increasingly targeted and specific to help manage these alarming trends, asthmatics and parents of affected children can do much to control the numerous triggers that exist in our everyday environment.
What Is an Asthma Trigger?
A trigger is any substance or condition that provokes a reaction in the respiratory tract, thus “triggering” an attack. Anyone who already suffers from asthma or exhibits allergic symptoms of asthma is particularly sensitive to such triggers.
The Key to Management
Asthma triggers are everywhere in our environment: indoors, outdoors and in the very air we breathe. Identifying triggers, however, is not always simple. It usually involves a process of elimination. A good place to start is a consultation with your doctor. Ask for guidance. Your doctor may recommend a skin test for allergies.
To assist your doctor, keep a personal medical diary to record the details of instances when your symptoms become particularly aggravated. It could be something as simple as entering a smoky or dusty environment or exercising outdoors in the cold air.
But first things first: learn to recognize the general symptoms of asthma caused by exposure to such triggers.
Typical symptoms include:
- Tightness of the chest (often painless)
- Wheezing (loudness varies from almost inaudible to very loud)
- Sweating, increased pulse rate and anxiety (more pronounced in severe cases)
- Bluish tint to face and lips (cyanosis) in acute attacks
- Cough (due to the accumulation of phlegm—sputum—in the lungs).
Recognizing Infant Asthma
Identifying symptoms and triggers in infant asthma is not as straightforward as it is in teens and adults. Sometimes the symptoms are masked so a parent might be unaware that the child has asthma. Parents can easily misdiagnose the symptoms as merely “a bit of a wheeze.”
The sobering reality is that the majority of infants who die from asthma do so because their parents have failed to identify the seriousness of their condition.
Learn to distinguish between the symptoms of a common cold and those of serious asthmatic bronchitis in your infant. Persistent hacking or a congested cough, with or without wheezing, can sometimes indicate the onset of asthmatic bronchitis in infants. Better to be safe than sorry: if in doubt, consult your child’s pediatrician.
In addition to wheezing and coughing, signs of labored breathing include:
- Rapid rate of breathing
- More than 40 breaths per minute in a sleeping infant is a warning sign
- Nasal “flaring” (nostrils widen) difficulty with breast or bottle feeding