Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease affecting the lower air passages in the lungs. It is very common worldwide and in Singapore, about one in five children have asthma.
Children with asthma have air passages that are hyper-responsive (sensitive) to triggers compared to other children. Asthma may present as recurrent episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness or coughing.
The severity of asthma differs in each child and can change with the course of time. Most children have mild asthma, and are generally well and have a few mild asthma attacks or less a year. Some children with more severe asthma may have frequent or life threatening attacks, or persistent symptoms of asthma that affect their daily activities.
Asthma attacks are usually caused by exposure to triggers, which lead to increased inflammation of the air passages. The air passages narrow and produce more mucus, leading to obstruction of the air passages and difficulty in breathing for the child. Although inflammation is worse during an asthma attack, it may also be present and ongoing even when a child with asthma appears to be well without much asthma symptoms.
The triggers that result in asthma attacks may differ in each child. It is important to avoid triggers where possible.
Some common triggers include
There are two main groups of asthma medicine, relievers and controllers/preventers.
Relievers: Medicines that work rapidly to open up the narrowed air passages during an asthma attack. They provide quick relief of asthma symptoms and enable your child to breathe better. They are used when needed.
Controllers/preventers: Medicines that work gradually to control the chronic inflammation in the air passages, making them less hyper-responsive (sensitive) to triggers. These medicines need to be used daily if prescribed by the doctor and should only be stopped when advised by the doctor. The period of treatment for each child prescribed with controllers/preventer medicines can range from many months to years, depending on the response and control of your child's asthma.
All children with asthma will be prescribed with a reliever medicine for use during asthma attacks. Some children whose asthma is not well controlled may need to use a controller/preventer medicine daily.
The doctor will be able to assess and advise if your child needs to use a controller/preventer medicine daily.
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