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Health Tips for Parents


Health Tips for Parents

2010 Issues

How can I help control my child’s asthma?


HT Jan2010 - AsthmaAsthma, which affects 7 million children in the U.S., does not have to limit a child’s participation in sports and other pursuits. Learning how to adequately prevent and treat asthma symptoms will allow your child to carry on daily activities without hesitation.

Asthma is a disease of the respiratory system that causes intermittent constriction of the airways due to inflammation in the lungs. As a result, the lining of the airways becomes swollen and muscles around the airways become tight, making it hard to breathe.

Asthma is attributed to a combination of allergenic, environmental, genetic and physical influences. “For infants and children between 1 and 4 years of age, viral infections and colds are more likely to trigger asthma and cause wheezing. But these groups of children tend to outgrow their asthma,” states Sean McGhee, M.D., pediatric allergist and immunologist at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA. “However, children who have a later onset of asthma tend to be very allergic and are more likely to live with asthma throughout their lives.”

Causes and symptoms “Although asthmatic episodes can be triggered by colds, viral infections, respiratory infections, pollens, dust, mold spores, certain foods, or even by laughing, coughing, strong emotions or dry/cold air, research shows a significant percentage of children inherit a tendency to allergies, and that allergy puts them at risk to develop asthma,” explains Dr. McGhee. Sometimes, however, symptoms arise because of more serious lung disorders. For this reason, it is important to diagnose asthma correctly with lung function tests.

Treatment Long-term control medications are used on a daily basis to control the inflammation in the airways and to prevent asthma symptoms, even when symptoms are not present. Quick relief or “rescue” medications, such as inhalers, provide instant relief during an asthma attack.

“It is important for parents to work with their child’s pediatrician and teachers to create and carry out an asthma action plan,” advises Dr. McGhee. This plan should outline how to avoid asthma triggers, monitor symptoms and when to take medications.”

Symptoms of asthma:

  • Difficulty breathing / wheezing
  • Fast (rapid) breathing / rapid pulse
  • Shortness of breath, even at rest
  • Chest tightness
  • Coughing
  • Sweating
  • Trouble speaking in full sentences
  • Fatigue or irritability


The UCLA BreathmobileHT Jan2010 - Breathmobile

“The UCLA Breathmobile, an ‘asthma clinic on wheels,’ provides free diagnosis, treatment, medication and education to high-risk children with asthma at various local schools,” notes Dr. McGhee. “With proper treatment and a team approach to managing asthma, most children with asthma can live a normal life and can get back to doing everything they do, including playing sports.”


This information is provided courtesy of the pediatricians at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA. UCLA Health pediatricians are conveniently located in your neighborhood. In addition to our Children’s Health Center in Westwood, we have offices in Brentwood, Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica and West Los Angeles. All health and health-related information contained in this publication is intended to be general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for a visit with a healthcare professional.

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