Asthma is a condition in which there is chronic inflammation of airways with episodic obstruction of airways on exposure to allergens. Because of obstruction of airways, child develops cough, tightness of chest and breathing difficulty on exposure to allergens. Asthma is very common chronic disease of childhood. Approximately 5 in every 100 children are suffering from asthma. Urban, male, poverty and overcrowding are the risk factors which influence the prevalence of asthma in particular area. In few areas even higher prevalence up to 15-18% has been reported.
Clinical features of Asthma:
Child complains of :
Recurrent bouts of cough
Difficulty in breathing
Parents may also report that child cough more at night and has disturbed sleep.
Some children may have symptoms at season change
In some cases child may have cough and chest tightness while playing (exercise induced asthma)
Causes of Asthma :
Asthma is caused by combination of genetic susceptibility to various allergens and exposure to allergens. Allergen on entering the airways of a genetically sensitive/allergic child causes a recruitment of inflammatory cells in the mucosal lining. These cells release chemicals which result in cascade of reactions.
So it is the allergen exposure which is the main triggering factor for asthma in a genetically susceptible child. Allergen on repititive exposure can result in chronic inflammation of airways. This makes the child more susceptible to other triggers.
As allergen exposure is the important trigger factor for asthma, if we can identify allergen and avoid it, number of episodes of asthma can be prevented. So management of asthma includes allergen avoidance along with inhalers for relieving symptoms of chest tightness and inflammation of airways. Regular treatment with frequent assessment for disease progress/improvement is also equally important to have good asthma control.