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Our award-winning Kid's Health Magazine is designed to provide healthful information for your growing child. Please Note: Kid's Health Magazine is no longer being printed. Please visit our blog at http://www.choc.org/blog for the latest articles about your child's health from the experts at CHOC Children's. You can also receive our electronic Kid's Health newsletter in your inbox by subscribing to our mailing list: http://www.choc.org/subscribe

Could Your Child Have Asthma?

Childhood asthma is much better understood these days, and there are exciting new treatments that minimize symptoms and, in some cases, completely eliminate them. So what's the problem? Many children who have asthma are not being diagnosed and treated for it. CHOC pediatric allergist Stanley Galant, M.D., is concerned because new evidence indicates that treatment should ideally begin by age 5 or 6 to control this potentially life-threatening condition and to avoid permanent damage to the child's airway.

"One of the most important things we've learned about asthma in recent years is that it is a chronic inflammatory disease. The swelling and narrowing of the airway is caused by inflammation, not only by spasms of the bronchial tubes," Dr. Galant says. "We've also discovered that without early treatment and intervention, this chronic inflammation may lead to permanent obstruction or what we call 'remodeling' of the child's airway as early as age 5 or 6. This means the child may never attain optimal airway function."

HOW TO MANAGE IT

Treating asthma requires a comprehensive approach, and Dr. Galant starts with education. A thorough understanding of peak flow meter readings and how asthma medications work is essential to controlling asthma and avoiding emergency trips to the hospital. He says every child who has asthma should have an action plan so they know precisely when to take "rescue" medications in addition to "controller" or maintenance medications.

Since asthma is often due to an allergic response, asthmatic children should also be tested for allergies to help identify allergens that may trigger an attack. With that information, changes can be made at home to minimize the child's exposure to such allergens as house dust, pet dander or pollen. Highly allergic patients may benefit from immunotherapy, or allergy shots, to help reduce sensitivity to allergens. Cigarette smoke, while not an allergen, is a major irritant for asthmatic children. Dr. Galant understands how fear may be one of the biggest reasons asthma is under-diagnosed in young children.

"Some parents may be reluctant to acknowledge the possibility their child has asthma because in their minds it means a chronic, debilitating disease. However, that is usually not the case when asthma is treated correctly," he says. "If a parent suspects asthma, it is better to confirm the diagnosis and start treatment. The sooner we can intervene, the sooner we can halt the progressive damage to the airway caused by the chronic inflammation."

Dr. Galant is in practice with Chao-I Lin, M.D., at 1201 W. LaVeta Avenue, Suite 501, in Orange. They also have offices in Brea and Irvine. For more information about asthma or allergy, please contact him at (714) 771-7994.



If your child experiences any of the following signs, Dr. Galant recommends asking your pediatrician about the possibility of asthma:

 

  • Chronic or persistent coughing at night

     
  • Coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath during exercise

     
  • Wheezing either during the day or night

     
  • Past relief of symptoms using asthma medications, such as a bronchodilator

If in conjunction with these symptoms, your child has experienced hay fever, milk allergy or eczema, or if your family has history of allergy or asthma, this would help suggest an asthma diagnosis, Dr. Galant says.

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Children's Hospital of Orange County is affiliated with UC Irvine Healthcare and UC Irvine School of Medicine

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