Asthma is a respiratory condition that affects a person’s breathing. When you breathe in, air enters your nose or mouth, then goes into the windpipe, also called the trachea. From there, the air travels into the lungs through the breathing tubes or bronchial tubes. These airways divide like branches of a tree and get smaller and smaller until they reach the very end and stop. At the end of the smallest airways are the alveoli, which are very tiny sacs buried deep in the lungs. This is where your lungs take oxygen out of the air and move it into your blood. This is vital for life because every part of your body needs oxygen to work. In the same way, carbon dioxide is exchanged from the body and absorbed into the alveoli and the airways carries it out back to your nose or mouth and you exhale the carbon dioxide.

Usually the airways will work normally. But sometimes, they might swell up and the passage becomes narrow like a straw that is being squeezed; called an inflammation. This makes breathing harder because the tubes close in. The swollen airways produce extra catarrh, which makes things sticky and makes breathing even harder. This situation is called an asthma flare-up.

As a result of this asthma flare-up, a child may wheeze (make a whistling sound), cough, and feel tightness in the chest. This asthma flare-up can become worse if the child does not use asthma medicine. After an asthma flare-up stops, the airways usually return to normal (this may take several days though).

How does a Child get Asthma?

No one knows why a child’s airways are more sensitive than another child’s airways. However, asthma is a genetic illness, i.e. it runs in families. That means if a child has asthma, he or she might have a parent, sibling, aunty, uncle, or other relative who has asthma or they had asthma when they were children.

What Causes an Asthma Flare-Up?

Anything that causes an asthma flare-up (attack) is called an asthma trigger. Different children have different triggers.

Common triggers include:

  • allergens, such as dust, pollen, hairy animals, and mould
  • irritants, such as cigarette smoke, perfume, and chalk dust
  • infections, like a cold

The two most common triggers of asthma in children are colds and allergens.

asthma triggers slideplayer

common asthma triggers. Photo credit:

Will my Child Outgrow his/her Asthma?

A lot of children discover that their asthma goes away or becomes less serious as they get older. Some doctors think this happens because the airways grow wider as a child grows up and gets bigger. With more room in the airways, the air gets in and out easier

Can Asthma be cured?

There is no cure at the moment. However, for most children and adults, asthma can be controlled throughout life with appropriate diagnosis, education and treatment.

How Is Asthma Treated or controlled?

Avoiding triggers: like cold, dust or other allergens can be very helpful in controlling asthma flare ups.

Taking medicines for flare ups: Asthma medicine often is taken through an inhaler, a plastic tube that holds a container of medicine. A kid holds the inhaler up to his or her mouth and breathes in. The medicine comes out in a mist that goes into the lungs. The medicine in the mist relaxes the airways, so the person can breathe easier.


Nurse watching girl (7-9) using inhaler in hospital. Photo credit:

Children may also take tablets or syrups to control asthma. In rare cases, they might get an injection at the doctor’s office. Whatever medicine the child takes, the goal is always the same: to keep asthma under control so that triggers do not create problems.

The doctor can also write down an asthma management plan to help a child and/or parents remember which medicines to use and when

Remember, the most important part of managing asthma is for you and your child to be very knowledgeable about how and when asthma causes problems and how to use medications.

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