A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Outgrow asthma? Don’t hold your breath…

Two kids smelling flowers in the park

The first step to treating asthma is to know what triggers it. Triggers can come for outdoor or indoor sources.

As much as children and their parents might want to believe it, there is little chance kids will outgrow asthma.

However, asthma can often be managed effectively and even subside for long periods.

You don’t outgrow it

“A better term, instead of ‘outgrowing’ asthma, is to say it goes into remission,” said Dr. Farhat Kokan, an allergist for Marshfield Clinic. “You don’t actually outgrow it.”

She said remission means no signs of the disease for two consecutive years without inhalers or other treatments. But, asthma may flare up anytime in life.

May is National Allergy and Asthma Awareness Month, a peak season for asthma. It’s a good time to call attention to the chronic lung condition causing inflammation and narrowing of the respiratory system’s airways. It can start with a young child, before age 5, with wheezing.  Some children will continue to have it while others go into remission, for reasons not well understood.

Know the triggers

The first step in treating asthma is to know what triggers it. Your child’s primary care doctor can start treatment but will likely refer more involved cases to an allergist, who has more extensive training and experience in managing asthma. Here are some common triggers:

Outdoor:

  • Tree pollen
  • Grass and ragweed
  • Mold

Indoor:

  • Pet dander
  • Dust mites
  • Mold
  • Smoke
  • Scented candles
  • Perfumes

Even a campfire can irritate children’s lungs

“Smoking is a predictor of asthma even if the child is only exposed to smoke as a fetus,” Kokan said. “Second-hand smoke is one of the biggest triggers. It can come from a wood-burning stove or a campfire as well as a cigarette. They all irritate a child’s lungs.”

What you win when you quit the smoking game.

Doctors can’t really predict which children will have persistent asthma or go into remission. They do know that remission is more common in boys and in children with milder forms of asthma. If a child goes into remission, he or she is less likely to have persistent asthma, a study of 35,000 children with asthma determined.

Your child’s genetic code, handed down by you and your spouse, plays a role in asthma. A virus can also trigger asthma.

One thing that can help is having your child get plenty of physical activity, which can improve lung function.

Make exercise more fun with family.

Exercising with asthma

“Have your child use a prescribed inhaler before beginning exercise, then warm up and start exercising gradually,” she said. “Asthma can be well-controlled. There are even people with asthma who compete in the Olympics so it shouldn’t be a deterrent except in extreme cases.”

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