How you can help your child avoid an asthma attack

Asthma is one of the most common health issues in children. It's the #1 reason children younger than 15 are hospitalized.

Asthma symptoms

During an asthma attack, the lining of the airways becomes inflamed and muscles surrounding the airways constrict, making the airway more narrow.

Asthma symptoms include:

  • Coughing. For some children, coughing is the only symptom of asthma. It may occur only at night or during exercise.
  • Wheezing (a high-pitched whistle when breathing).
  • Chest tightness or pain.
  • Shortness of breath (faster, more shallow breathing).

Asthma triggers

Many things can trigger an asthma attack:

  • Allergens such as pollen, mold, pet dander, dust, cockroaches and certain foods (if they are allergic to foods).
  • Breathing in irritants like strong odors, air pollution, smoke, dust or powder.
  • Changing weather conditions like changing temperatures, humidity or strong wind.
  • Exercise. Long-term, strenuous activities like distance running are most likely to trigger an attack. Swimming is least likely.
  • Respiratory infections and sinusitis.
  • Sensitivity to medications, including aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and sulfites. These sometimes are used as preservatives in food and beverages.

Some people with asthma have more trouble at certain times of the year, like spring or fall. This may be due to exposure to certain allergens. For example, if you are allergic to pollen, spring may be a difficult time of year. If you are allergic to molds, fall may be more of a challenge.

What parents can do

If you know your child is allergic or sensitive to outdoor allergens or has seasonal triggers, follow these tips to minimize exposure to outdoor allergens.

If you know your child is allergic/sensitive to indoor allergens or has specific indoor triggers, follow these tips to minimize allergens within your home.