Understanding asthma: Breaking down the facts

Today is World Asthma Day, an annual day of recognition and awareness for all people living with asthma.

The theme for 2021 is ‘uncovering asthma misconceptions’ so we had a chat with RCH paediatrician Dr Lexi Frydenberg to get some asthma answers.

When should children be tested for asthma?

Asthma is a common condition with one in four children being diagnosed with asthma some time during childhood.

If your child is having problems breathing, wheezing or coughing, it is a good idea to visit your GP. Your GP will take a history and examine your child and help determine whether their breathing issues are due to asthma. There is no one test that diagnoses asthma but your GP may recommend treatment with a puffer to see if your child improves.

Is asthma the same for every child?

Asthma affects each child differently so it is important to get to know your child’s asthma—their triggers, their symptoms and signs and their individual management. It is important to have an Individualised Asthma Action plan for your child updated each year and for you to understand how to best prevent and manage your child’s asthma.

What does an asthma attack involve?

An asthma attack or episode is often triggered by a virus, change in weather, exercise.

Your child may have difficulties breathing (at rest or with exercise, feel tight in the chest, breathe fast and hard or be unable to speak in sentences due to feeling out of breath). You might also hear a wheeze (a whistling sound when your child breathes out) and your child may be coughing. (Coughing alone does not mean asthma). In a severe episode, your child might struggle to breathe, become very distressed, exhausted or even limp.

It is important to know what to do in case of an asthma attack or episode and follow your child’s asthma action plan or asthma first aid.

Is asthma infectious?

Asthma can be triggered by infections (e.g. viruses) but it is not infectious. Asthma does tend to run in families though.

Can children with asthma exercise and play team sports?

With the right treatment, nearly all children with asthma will be able to exercise, play sport and lead active lives.

More information about asthma is available here:

https://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/Asthma/

https://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/asthma-videos/

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