Childhood is the time of our lives that’s supposed to be filled with joy, playtime, and good memories with friends and family. Imagine if you added asthma into that equation. It’s very hard for children to play with their friends, do sports and feel ‘normal’ when they have asthma. Some argue that the bigger problem is the psychological and sociological impact asthma has on children, especially in younger children.
Feeling ‘different’ your whole life can be a very difficult thing to wrap your head around as a kid. No matter how much the parents try to make the child feel comfortable with asthma, there will always be that feeling in the back of the child’s head that they are different or limited by it.
Asthma is the most common chronic lung disease in children, meaning that there is a significant number of children around the world who are going through what we’ve just described. Almost 30% of children with asthma have limitations in doing normal, day-to-day activities. The problem is present, and it’s escalating.
What causes asthma in children
There isn’t a definitive answer to what causes asthma. Asthma is still an enigma when it comes to diagnosing and treating. If a child comes from a family that has a tradition of allergies, there is a ‘higher possibility’ of the children developing asthma. Did you know that children whose mothers smoked during pregnancies have an increased chance of developing asthma?
That’s as good as it gets to knowing what may help cause your child’s asthma.
Diagnosing asthma in children
Diagnosing asthma with infants(0-12 months) is pretty difficult. The symptoms, such as wheezing, may be due to bronchiolitis or due to underdeveloped airways. If the infant has clinically significant wheezing, it may be a sign of asthma. The next step would be to go to a respiratory physician. They will run additional tests and provide you with a result. Because the child is young, doctors can’t conduct standard asthma-related tests.
The second group of children(aged 1-5) is slightly easier to diagnose. The first step is to talk to your pediatrician about your family history. They may ask you how your child behaves, does it play around often, what’s their breathing pattern. Also, the doctor may ask you if your child has any triggers, such as foods or activities that trigger the wheezing or other symptoms.
After the initial talk with the parents, doctors may request additional tests. Lung function tests, that are a norm when diagnosing asthma in adults, aren’t viable in this scenario.
The tests may include blood tests, allergy testing, X-ray scans, and others.
Sometimes, doctors will prescribe some medications, to see how the child reacts to them.
For children aged 6-11, diagnosing asthma is the ‘easiest’ out of these 3 categories. In this age range, it’s common to use spirometry testing. Spirometry testing goes as follows:
- Your child takes a seat at the spirometry machine and has a clip placed on their nose.
- The child breathes in and out into a tube for a few seconds. The person tested should try to breathe in and out, the hardest they can.
- Sometimes, you will need to repeat the test up to 3 times. If there are big oscillations in the results, the test should be repeated. The ending result is usually the biggest result out of the 3 attempts.
In this test, doctors get measurements such as:
- FVC(Forced Vital Capacity) is the largest amount of air exhaled after breathing in as deeply as you can. If FVC is lower than normal standards, it can be a sign of restricted breathing.
- FEV(Forced expiratory volume) is measuring how much air can you force from your lungs in one second. The result helps to assess the severity of your breathing problems. Lower results indicate significant obstructions.
Asthma Predictive Index(API)
API is the result of a test that’s done by parents of the child suspected to have asthma. The test itself is fairly easy to fill out. This test helps you determine if your child will have asthma or not. You can check out the test here.
It’s very difficult to diagnose asthma in children. Doctors just can’t have a high degree of certainty in their decisions. There are tools that help them, but there isn’t a black-and-white decision on this matter.
There is still hope, though. A lot of research is going into diagnosing asthma and improving the already-in-place methods.
We’re looking forward to seeing what improvements are there to come.