It is not fully understood why children develop asthma, although people with asthma often have a family history of asthma, eczema, allergies and allergic rhinitis (hay fever). It is estimated that approximately one in ten Australian children have asthma.
Asthma is the most common reason for children being admitted to hospital, presenting to their doctor or hospital emergency department, and for missing days at school. If your child’s asthma is well managed, they should be able to lead a healthy active life.
About 40 per cent of children with asthma live with a current smoker and children of smoking parents are twice as likely to have symptoms of asthma before they are five years old.
Risk factors for long-term asthma
At this time there is no way of predicting whether your child will continue to have asthma throughout their life.
Children are more likely to continue to have asthma symptoms into adulthood if they:
- have allergies
- are female
- have a parent or sibling with asthma
- are exposed to second-hand cigarette smoke
- are overweight or obese
- have severe, persistent asthma.
Get the answers
There are many things to think about, and plan for, when your child has asthma. It is important to learn as much as you can about the condition. Your doctor and pharmacist are there to help you. Ask them:
- about what spacers are available and how to care for them
- if your child needs a mask with their spacer. Masks are recommended for all children under five years
- for practical ideas to encourage your child to take their asthma medications
- how your child’s medication works and any concerns you may have about their asthma.
What you need to know about your child’s asthma
To manage your child’s asthma effectively, you should know:
- The pattern of asthma – every child’s asthma is different. Some children have mild, occasional episodes of asthma or only show symptoms after exercising, or when they have a cold. Some experience daily symptoms, while others have symptoms continuously, which limit their level of activity. Each pattern of asthma requires a different treatment approach. It is important to remember that children can still have a severe and even life-threatening attack, even if they generally have mild or occasional asthma.
- Your child’s triggers – your child will probably have several asthma triggers and they can vary from another child. Triggers cause inflammation or swelling in the airways and make asthma worse. The most common trigger is a viral infection, usually a simple cold. Find out what triggers your child’s asthma so that you can avoid them.
- Your child’s asthma symptoms – some of the common symptoms and signs include coughing (particularly at night), wheezing, a feeling of tightness in the chest (often described as a ‘sore tummy’) or difficulty breathing. Your child may have all of these symptoms or just a few.
- Your child’s asthma medications – learn what the medications do and make sure your child takes them properly.
- What to do if your child has an asthma attack – know and follow asthma first aid.
Develop an Asthma Action Plan
An Asthma Action Plan is a clear written summary of your child’s asthma management. Everyone with asthma should have a personalised asthma action plan written by their doctor.
An Asthma Action Plan outlines:
- your child’s particular asthma triggers
- how to care for day-to-day asthma (lists your child’s regular medications and how often they should take them)
- how to recognise when your child’s asthma is getting worse or an ‘attack’ is developing, and the steps you should take to manage it
- symptoms that are serious, indicating a need for urgent medical help (with emergency information on what to do if your child has an asthma attack).
The Asthma Action Plan is an important tool for anyone caring for your child. A copy of the action plan should be sent to school, kindergarten, childcare centre, grandparents, other relatives or anyone caring for your child.
What the child’s service or school needs to know
To assist childcare and preschool workers and school teachers in the care of your child with asthma, you should:
- Tell them that your child has asthma (even if it mild or occasional).
- Provide them with a copy of your child’s Asthma Action Plan, including emergency contact details.
- Show staff members how to use the medication devices, such as spacers and puffers.
- Make sure your child has an up-to-date supply of medication and a spacer at the centre or school.
- Notify staff if your child’s asthma changes.
- Tell the staff about any concerns you may have.
Where to get help
- Your doctor
- The Asthma Foundation of Victoria Tel. (03) 9326 7088
Things to remember
- Asthma is the most common childhood condition in Australia.
- Your child needs a personalised asthma plan written by their doctor and reviewed regularly.
- Make sure your children’s service or school understands your child’s asthma symptoms and medications.
- If your child’s asthma is well managed, they should be able to lead a healthy and active life.
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
Asthma Foundation of Victoria
Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residents and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that, over time, currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.