Asthma in children

Asthma is one of the most common chronic illnesses, and in children it is even the most common: about every tenth child under the age of 15 and every eighth child under the age of ten is affected. Asthma is a chronic inflammation of the respiratory tract. This leads to a narrowing of the respiratory tracts, caused by swelling of the mucous membranes, increased formation of viscous mucus and cramping of the bronchi.

All three changes eventually lead to shortness of breath, and breathing out is particularly difficult. This condition can increase in the event of a seizure, especially if the child is in contact with one of the asthma triggers. In the first place these are birch, hazelnut and grass pollen, dog or cat hair, house dust mites, mould spores and sometimes foodstuffs. In principle, all allergens that cause hay fever can also lead to asthma and asthma attacks. Since bronchial tubes are generally hypersensitive, they often do not tolerate cold and dust or physical exertion - especially when maximum performance is required, such as in sprinting or squash games. Even overwhelming emotions such as fear, anger or great joy can cause a seizure.

You see, the asthma triggers are quite different in nature. Therefore, asthma is divided into "predominantly allergic" and "non-allergic". Knowing these triggers is very important to keep your child away from them. However, the doctor will not be able to tell you all the triggers and dangers in advance, as asthma is a complex disease with different effects. Just as important as medical advice is that you yourself become an expert and learn to assess the condition of the bronchial tubes. This applies both to you as a parent and to your asthma-affected child. In this way it can feel how much stress it can bear and, if necessary, quickly avoid the danger zone. This also applies to sport. For a long time, asthma-affected children were exempted from physical education in order to protect them. However, according to current knowledge, this is not the right way forward. On the one hand, the children feel excluded and on the other hand, well-dosed physical exertion has a positive effect on the respiratory tract. It is therefore recommended that children be allowed to participate in physical education. Many sports are suitable, especially swimming, cycling, jogging or football. However, sports with short-term peak performances should be approached cautiously. It is also very important that the child always has his emergency spray with him in case of sudden shortness of breath. In general, the physical education teacher must be informed about your child's illness so that he or she is challenged but not overtaxed.

Even if the expert opinion on sport has changed, there is no all-clear signal for pets on another point, which is especially important for children. Animals with fur that live indoors are taboo for children with predominantly allergic asthma. It is almost 100 percent predictable that children with hay fever or mite allergy will develop asthma if such a pet would move in at home. Unfortunately, as a parent you have to be consistent and should not allow the keeping of a pet for your child's sake.

If you want to enable your child to have a carefree childhood, you as the parents have a responsible task anyway. Your child is most likely unsettled and constantly afraid of an asthma attack. Here you need a lot of patience and empathy, because your child needs you when he or she feels desperate, anxious and discouraged. On other days, it may also be angry and rebel if it has to do without something for the sake of illness. You can't spare your child his fate, but you can help him. Inform yourself, because the more you know about this disease, the more predictable it becomes and the more accurate you can sound out what your child is allowed and tolerated. This reduces the risk of seizures and avoids unnecessary restrictions.

Copyright: Landeszentrale fuer Gesundheitsfoerderung in Rheinland-Pfalz e.V. (LZG) Germany

Text: Dr. Beatrice Wagner, Redaktion: Marielle Becker