By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
For the Public Health by Anthony Parrillo, Ph.D., CHES
Childhood asthma: What parents need to know
Placeholder Image
    Asthma is a chronic lung condition, which means it lasts a long time – usually three months or more. Once someone has asthma, it won’t just disappear. A person with asthma has difficulty breathing, due to narrowing of the air passages, mucous secretions, and inflammation of the airways. This results in reduced air flow that causes wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness. Asthma during childhood has a great impact on the growth and development of children and their families, and is a leading cause of chronic illness in children. In 2004, nearly nine million children nationwide under the age of 18 had been told by a doctor or a health professional at some point in their lives that they had asthma, and more than six million had asthma at that time.
    Asthma’s effects can be wide-ranging. For example, in 2002 more than four million children 17-and-under had an asthma attack; in that same age group, more than 4.5 million said they had visited a doctor’s office or outpatient department during 2001, and more than 725,000 reported they had visited a hospital emergency department. Asthma is also the leading cause of school absenteeism, with nearly fourteen million school days lost to the disease each year.
    In the year 2000, approximately 10.5 percent – or 210,000 – of Georgia’s children under 18 had asthma. In Georgia’s public schools, nearly 13.1 percent of middle school students and 10.7 percent of high school students reported having asthma in 2001.  Recently, among Georgia students with asthma, approximately one-half of those in middle school and high school reported having an attack or episode within the last year; greater than one-half of children of school age missed one or more days of school, resulting in approximately 390,000 work days lost by adults who cared for them.
    So … what do you need to know as a parent in order to help your child, just in case he or she has asthma, or might be having an asthma attack for the first time?
    When your child is having an asthma attack, the airways in his/her lungs become inflamed, which can lead to coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Triggers often vary from person-to-person and from season-to-season; asthma may even stop affecting a child as he or she grows older. Among the things that trigger asthma are: environmental tobacco smoke; dust mites; outdoor air pollution; cockroaches and their droppings; pets; mold and mildew; strenuous exercise; and strong emotional states.
    Often, asthma attacks can be avoided by taking prescribed medicines, or by doing what you have been instructed to do by a doctor. You can also simply be sure that your child avoids things you know that can cause an attack. Some medicines are inhaled (breathed in), and some are taken in pill form. Asthma medicines can provide quick relief or longer-term control.  Quick-relief medicines target the symptoms of asthma; drugs that provide long-term control help your child have fewer and milder attacks, but won’t help your child if he or she is having an asthma attack. Asthma medicines can have side effects, but most side effects are mild and soon go away.
    Remember, you can control your child’s asthma! For more information, you can dial the CDC’s toll-free hotline at 1-800-CDC-INFO, or use their Internet page http://www.cdc. gov/asthma/faqs.htm. 
    Anthony V. Parrillo, PhD, CHES, is an associate professor in the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health at Georgia Southern University. His research interests include his research interests include the study of multi-problem risk behaviors among adolescents and young adults, behavioral modeling, human sexuality, STD and HIV/AIDS, and the evaluation of community-based health programs.
Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter