Caring for a child with asthma can seem like a daunting responsibility, given the unique challenges the child may face, especially when they are very young.
If you suspect that your child has asthma, early intervention is crucial in preventing flare-ups and for protecting your child’s lung health in the long run. Helping your child live an active, normal life is highly achievable through effective management, which involves partnering with a reliable allergy specialist in combination with other essential steps.
Here’s a guide to give you good insight into the treatment process for childhood asthma.
The Diagnosis Process
Diagnosing childhood asthma includes a thorough review of your child’s medical history and that of your family. The allergy specialist will then conduct a physical exam and an allergy and/or pulmonary function test to determine the possible cause, ensure trigger avoidance, and prescribe the right treatment.
These tests, however, may not yield accurate results for children under 5 years of age. The doctor will instead rely on the information you provide about your child’s symptoms in such situations.
I. Allergy Testing
Your child’s allergy evaluation is made up of over several visits, the first of which consists of a consultation and a review of the problem. To determine which allergens trigger your child’s asthma, your allergist may order skin, blood, and/or food allergy tests.
If a skin test is required, your allergy specialist will often begin it on the first visit. This is done via prick and intradermal methods and may take up to three visits to complete.
Your doctor may also order a blood test to identify the presence of specific antibodies, which may indicate your child’s allergic reaction to specific substances.
An oral food challenge, also called a feeding test, is deemed as the most reliable method of confirming a food allergy diagnosis, or of ruling one out. It involves having your child slowly consume increasing amounts of the “challenge” food at regular time intervals under medical supervision. Once completed, your allergy specialist will review the results with you and discuss the possible treatment options.
II. Pulmonary Function Testing (PFT)
Also called breathing tests, PFTs determine lung capacity, volume, rates of flow, and gas exchange. If your child is over 5 years of age, your allergist may conduct a breathing test to measure how well their lungs are working.
Asthma Treatment Options
Your allergist may recommend the following treatment options after confirming that your child’s asthma is triggered by allergies:
Injectables can be used in children 6 years or older who suffer from moderate to severe asthma. Injectables work by reducing the reaction of your child’s immune system to allergy-causing substances, such as dust mites, pet dander, and pollen.
Your doctor can prescribe the same medications adults take, though in lower doses. Your doctor will give you two types of medications, depending on your child’s age and the severity and frequency of their symptoms.
Also called rescue therapy, quick-relief medications dilate the airways to stop asthma attacks when they occur, reducing chest tightness, wheezing, and breathlessness. Quick-relief medications alleviate asthma symptoms for four to six hours.
Also called maintenance medications or controllers, long-term control medications prevent asthma attacks before they begin. Compared to quick-relief medications, these are slow-acting and shouldn’t be used when immediate treatment is required. These need to be given daily, even when your child is not having any asthma symptoms.
Oral immunotherapy is designed to desensitize children with asthma to an allergen through daily exposure to foods that may contain it. Your allergy specialist will feed your child an increasing amount of the allergen with the goal of raising allergy threshold.
Oral immunotherapy, however, is not a curative therapy. It is rather geared toward providing valuable, lifesaving protection against accidental allergen exposure.
Creating an Asthma Action Plan
An asthma action plan is a set of written instructions that you can create to help manage your child’s asthma. This will provide you with a system that will help you make sense of the bits of information you record and figure out the exact measures to take when your child’s asthma isn’t under control.
Adhering to a written asthma action plan can ultimately help your child do normal, everyday activities without the worry about flare-ups, ER visits, and even hospitalizations.
You’ll need to work with your allergy specialist to devise an asthma action plan that’s customized for your child. It should cover these important points:
- A list of possible triggers
- Knowing when to seek emergency care
- The kinds of medications your child takes and how and when to administer them
- Asthma symptoms
- Peak flow meter readings (This is a tool your doctor may prescribe to help you gauge how well your child’s lungs work)
Make sure to keep your asthma plan current by reviewing it with your doctor at least every 3 to 6 months. If something changes — such as when your doctor modifies your child’s medicine doses — make sure to note it down and give new copies to your child’s caregiver or teacher.
Seeking Asthma Treatment for Children in Will County & DuPage County, IL
If you’re worried that your child may have asthma, our allergy specialists at Oak Brook allergists can get you the care your child needs right away. Our providers are experts in diagnosing and providing high-quality treatment for childhood asthma. We will educate you on your child’s condition and treatment options.