How Asthma is Diagnosed and Treated

How can you be sure that it’s asthma? It can be scary to hear that your child has been diagnosed with respiratory sensitivity, but there are ways to manage the condition and help them to live fully.

What should I know to about asthma?

Asthma makes your child’s airways swollen and very sensitive to certain things. These things your child reacts to are your child’s triggers. 

When your child encounters a trigger, 

  •  Muscles around your child’s airways may tighten, making the airways narrower  
  • The airways may become more swollen, narrowing them further
  • The airways may make extra mucus, clogging them even more

The changes in the airways reduce how much air can get through. The result can be asthma symptoms. Here’s the good news: you can usually prevent the changes or ease the symptoms by following your child’s Asthma Action Plan.

How will my child’s doctor know if it’s asthma or something else?

Your child’s doctor may diagnose asthma based on your child’s lung function test, a medical history, and a physical exam. The doctor will most likely use a test called spirometry to gauge how your child’s lungs are working. This test measures how much air can be breathed in and out. It also measures how fast air is blown out.

The doctor will also determine if the asthma whether is intermittent, mild, moderate, or severe before deciding on treatment.

Understanding peak-flow meter numbers

Ask your child’s doctor to help you find your child’s personal best peak-flow meter number. This allows you to compare the new peak-flow meter numbers to your child’s personal best to see how things are going. Here are some general guidelines: 

  • 80 percent to 100 percent of your child’s personal best: Your child is doing well. If the doctor has prescribed a long-term control medication, make sure your child takes it every day. 
  • 50 percent to 80 percent of your child’s personal best: Your child’s asthma is getting worse. Use a quick-relief inhaler, following the directions in your child’s Asthma Action Plan.
  • Less than 50 percent of your child’s personal best: Your child’s asthma is in the danger zone. Keep following the Asthma Action Plan. Call 911 or go to the emergency room. 

Medication also plays a key role in treating asthma. There are two main types of asthma medication. Many people with asthma take both types. Your child’s Asthma Action Plan should tell exactly how and when to use medication. Over time, your child’s medication needs may change. If you have questions, ask your child’s doctor. 

 Using a peak-flow meter 

Many health care providers want their young asthma patients to use a peak-flow meter as part of an Asthma Action Plan.   

A peak-flow meter is a handheld device that measures how well air is moving out of your child’s lungs. Your child blows hard into the device, and it shows a number. Your doctor may ask you to repeat this three times and record the highest reading. This number indicates how well your child’s lungs are working at the time. 

Sometimes, your child may be feeling fine but a  drop in the peak-flow meter number shows that your child’s asthma is starting to flare up. By catching the problem early, it can be treated it right away before things get worse. 

Taking Medications

Most asthma medications are taken by inhaler with a device called a holding chamber or with a nebulizer, a machine that includes compressor tubing and a mask to help deliver the medication. Both help your child breathe in the medication so that it goes straight to the lungs. Make sure your child knows how to use the equipment correctly. Your child’s doctor, nurse or pharmacist can teach you and your child the right way so you both can determine what works best.  

Working together with your asthma team can help you manage your child’s asthma. While asthma is a condition that typically doesn’t go way, by keeping on top of it, your child can enjoy a healthy and active life.  

To learn more about Asthma and the Taking on Asthma initiative, visit our website!

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