What is asthma? And what symptoms should I be looking for?

Asthma is a serious respiratory illness that can seriously affect a child. These are the symptoms and the actions you should take if your child is diagnosed.

By Dr. Ayala Wegman



about the doc

Ayala Wegman is a clinical assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at NYU Grossman School of Medicine.  She has two young boys and deeply enjoys caring for her community at NYU-Langone Global Pediatrics on the Upper East Side of Manhattan where she resides. We are proud to introduce Ayala as our All About The Mom resident pediatrician. You will find her advice in our Ask a Doc section.

What causes asthma and what are the symptoms I should be looking for in my child?

Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease characterized by airway hyperreactivity and inflammation. It is thought that the interplay between genetics and environmental factors cause the disease.   Episodes can range from mild coughing fits with or without associated wheeze to life threatening events that require the use of intensive care and ventilation. There is a strong hereditary component to asthma.  If a child comes into my office with a history of wheezing episodes it is very likely that one or both parents have had a childhood history of asthma or continue to be asthmatic into adulthood.

Persistent nighttime cough, wheezing episodes, exertional coughing or shortness of breath with activity, are all symptoms to let your doctor know about. Asthma can be triggered by a variety of factors. Seasonal or environmental allergies can exacerbate the condition, while some children will see a flare if they are exposed to cigarette smoke, intense fragrances, or pollution. Changes in the weather can also cause some to have flares, while some patients may only have wheezing episodes with viral infections or exercise. If your child is diagnosed with asthma it is important to have an asthma action plan carved out with your pediatrician so that your child has a game plan for when the flares may occur. This will keep your child and the adults around them prepared for emergencies and may prevent doctor visits and hospitalizations.

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