Asthma affects one in nine Australians - many of them children. But the good news is Sydney Local Health District’s experts say it can usually be kept under control so kids are free to run and play.
“Put simply, asthma is a condition that causes the small air tubes in the lungs to become inflamed, making them narrower and leaving sufferers wheezing and breathless” says Associate Professor Matthew Peters, Sydney Local Health District’s respiratory expert.
It can be hard to diagnose at a young age because there are a lot of illnesses that make kids chesty and wheezy in the first two years of life.
“Small children have small airways and in most cases, their wheezing won’t turn out to be asthma.” Associate Professor Peters says as a result, local doctors and paediatricians don’t usually diagnose asthma until children are older.
We don’t know all the causes of asthma, and it’s not something children are born with but the risk is higher for those with parents or siblings who have asthma or eczema and for those exposed to tobacco smoke.
“Smoking by mothers during pregnancy and smoke exposure during early childhood is a real risk factor,” Associate Professor Peters adds.
For most children, asthma won’t stop them from having a normal childhood - as long as mum and dad help to keep symptoms under control. This includes knowing what triggers your child’s asthma and making sure there’s always medication nearby.
An ‘Asthma Action Plan’ is a must, spelling out exactly what to do in case of an attack. It usually includes information on early warning signs, when and how to give medication and when to call an ambulance. This is something you can put together with your local doctor, according to your child’s individual needs.
For many children, asthma will go away as they grow up and thanks to modern medicine it’s unusual for asthma to be fatal in children.
“Childhood asthma deaths are now a very, very rare event,” Associate Professor Peters assures.