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Treating Asthma in Children

Step 1 -- Identifying and Controlling Asthma Triggers continued...

To control pollens and molds:

  • Ventilate bathrooms, basements, and other damp places where mold can grow. 
  • Consider keeping a light on in closets and using a dehumidifier in basements to remove air moisture.
  • Use air conditioning because it removes excess air moisture, filters out pollens from the outside, and provides air circulation throughout your home. Filters should be changed once a month.
  • Avoid wallpaper and carpets in bathrooms because mold can grow under them.
  • Use bleach to kill mold in bathrooms.
  • Keep windows and doors shut during pollen season.

To control irritants:

  • Do not smoke (or allow others to smoke) at home, even when a child is not present.
  • Do not burn wood fires in fireplaces or wood stoves.
  • Avoid strong odors from paint, perfume, hair spray, disinfectants, chemical cleaners, air fresheners, and glues.

To control animal dander:

  • If your child is allergic to a pet, you may have to consider finding a new home for the animal or keeping the pet outside at all times.
  • It may (but does not always) help to wash the animal at least once a week to remove excess dander and collected pollens.
  • Never allow the pet into the allergic child's bedroom.
  • If you don't already own a pet and your child has asthma, don't get one. Even if your child isn't allergic to the animal now, he or she can become allergic with continued exposure.

Outdoor controls

  • When mold or pollen counts are high, give your child medications recommended by your doctor (usually an antihistamine like Zyrtec or Claritin) before going outdoors.
  • After playing outdoors, the child should bathe and change clothes.
  • Drive with the car windows shut and air conditioning on during mold and pollen seasons.
  • Don't let a child mow the grass or rake leaves.

In some cases, the doctor may recommend immunotherapy, a way of gradually improving your child’s tolerance of allergens that bother him, when control measures and medications are not effective. Speak with your child's doctor about these options.

Step 2 -- Anticipating and Preventing Asthma Flare-Ups

Patients with asthma have chronic inflammation of their airways. Inflamed airways are "twitchy" and tend to constrict (or narrow) whenever they are exposed to a trigger (such as infection or an allergen). Some children with asthma may have increased inflammation in the lungs and airways every day without knowing it. Their breathing may sound normal and wheeze-free when their airways are actually narrowing and becoming inflamed, making them prone to a flare-up. To better assess a child's breathing and determine risk for an asthma attack (or flare-up), breathing tests may be helpful. Breathing tests measure the volume and speed of air as it is exhaled from the lungs. Asthma specialists make several measurements with a spirometer, a computerized machine that takes detailed measurements of breathing ability.

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