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care plan for asthma - ultimate asthma Q&A

Take Control of Your Child’s Asthma with an Asthma Action Plan

*This post is sponsored, but this journey and all opinions are 100% my own.*

Asthma is the most common chronic disease in children but not necessarily an easy diagnosis to make. Having a care plan for asthma is imperative if you do receive a positive diagnosis.

Diagnosing Asthma in Children

Many families experience the coughing and wheezing associated with a respiratory infection and begin to worry their child may have something more chronic. The pediatrician may prescribe albuterol, leading many parents to question whether the wheezing could actually be a sign of asthma.

But coughing and wheezing are pretty common symptoms of many respiratory infections in children. I see many children in the ER for these very symptoms, as they are one of the more frequent reasons for emergency room visits and hospital admissions.

In many cases, these symptoms are just a part of a viral infection. However, you shouldn’t rule out asthma too early.

Determining whether your child has asthma is imperative to getting their symptoms under control. And if your child does have asthma, starting the right medications and knowing and understanding their potential triggers is the key to preventing asthma attacks.

Having a care plan for asthma is the best way to eliminate the guesswork and anxiety around your child’s wheezing.

I am a proud ambassador of Med-IQ and love their mission to help educate parents on important medical topics. Today I am partnering with Med-IQ to answer some of the most common questions I receive about asthma and give you the ultimate asthma guide! 

Q: What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic condition with symptoms that include cough, wheezing, chest tightness or pain, and difficulty breathing. However, making a definitive diagnosis under the age of 5 can be difficult.

In order to make a proper diagnosis, your pediatrician will attempt to identify causative factors and will require a comprehensive history of symptoms, a physical examination, and a pulmonary function testing.

Q: How do I know if my child has allergies or asthma?

This difference can be difficult to spot as many times a child’s allergies can actually trigger asthma and lead to similar symptoms. If your child has asthma, there is a good chance you’ll receive a referral to an allergist to identify possible allergies that may trigger your child’s asthma.

One indication that your child might be having an allergic reaction instead of an asthma attack is if other organ systems, such as skin or the GI tract, are involved. Symptoms such as rash, itchy eyes, GI upset, or vomiting can be indicators that your child is having an allergic reaction.

An asthma diagnosis is not certain until closer to age 6-7 because of lung function, but children can develop symptoms much earlier.

Q: What causes asthma?

It isn’t 100% clear why certain people develop asthma. Like many medical conditions, asthma is often due to a combination of a genetic predisposition and environmental triggers. The underlying cause of asthma is inflammation and the tightening of airways. 

With asthma, there is often a strong genetic component which is why it is so important to have good communication with your doctor.

Q: Do kids outgrow asthma, or can it be cured?

Unfortunately, asthma isn’t something that can be cured.

However, you absolutely can control the symptoms with a care plan for asthma and compliance to medication.

Many times, children’s asthma symptoms will resolve as they age. However, symptoms may return later on. Children with more severe asthma are less likely to grow out of it.

Asthma can also continue into adulthood, especially in severe and uncontrolled cases. But from childhood through adulthood, there are fantastic new treatment options available. Always check with your healthcare provider regarding the latest treatment options.

Q: What are common asthma triggers? 

  1. Your child’s allergies
  2. Smoke
  3. Viral respiratory illness
  4. Mold
  5. Pet dander
  6. Strong chemical smells
  7. Exercise – some asthma sufferers have an exercise-induced bronchoconstriction

Q: What symptoms would indicate that my child needs to be evaluated for asthma? 

  1. Wheezing that occurs without illness
  2. Significant cough that is persistent in nature and occurs with exercise and at night
  3. Strong family history of asthma with persistent coughing and wheezing

Q: Can I predict when my child is going to have an asthma attack?

Seasonal allergies, fall/winter flu season, and respiratory viruses like COVID-19 are all potential triggers that can exacerbate asthma symptoms.

So it’s important to have an asthma treatment plan in place, and/or talk to your pediatrician now about escalating your child’s treatment, if you feel it’s necessary, before these seasons come around.

Q: My child wheezes with colds. Does this mean he has asthma?

Not necessarily. Many babies and young children will wheeze due to a virus but don’t develop asthma. Because their airways are smaller, mucus builds up much easier, leading to coughing and wheezing. Actually, most children who wheeze as infants do outgrow it and do not go on to develop asthma.

Typically, a formal asthma diagnosis can’t be accurately made until your child is 5 or 6 years old.

Q: Can my child play sports with asthma?

Maybe! All sports are not 100% out of the question when it comes to asthma. But you must take this advice on a case-by-case basis and check with your child’s pediatrician before allowing sports.

Q: My pediatrician diagnosed my child with asthma. Do I need to see a specialist?

Most asthma is considered mild, meaning a patient occasionally needs an inhaler.

In fact, 70% of patients with asthma can receive treatment from their primary care doctor. Once a patient starts having more persistent symptoms, meaning they need to use the inhaler more than a few times a week, it is recommended that they see a specialist.

Q: What medications will my child with asthma take?

There is a ladder of treatment for patients with asthma with different levels of medications. Patients can move up the ladder of treatment options if their asthma is more severe and less controlled.

The first step is determining when the asthma is severe and why the patient isn’t responding to treatment. Perhaps they could have something else that isn’t asthma.

The second step up the ladder is to escalate the dosing of steroids and broncho-dilators.

The third step, if the patient still has symptoms after taking medications as prescribed, is to see a specialist – such as an allergist or a pulmonologist. These specialists can then determine what type of asthma your child has and potentially introduce new biologics to specifically target the pathways to help improve outcomes.

There are five newer biologic therapies available – all of them are shots – and they make a big impact on patients with severe asthma.

It’s important to have an asthma treatment plan in place {stay tuned for more on that below} as kids head back to school in the fall.

Q: How do you use an inhaler?

There are different ways in which albuterol enters the lungs. Depending on your child’s age, they may need either a nebulizer machine or an inhaler with a spacer.

It is very important that you ask questions and make sure you know how to properly use and store your inhaler or nebulizer machine.

If your child lives in two separate households, each house needs to have all the medicine and equipment.

Q: I hate that my child is on steroids. Why is it so important to take these medications as prescribed?

If your doctor feels your child needs to either be on inhaled or oral steroids during an acute asthma attack, it is important to be compliant.

Steroids prevent inflammation. But by taking these medications as prescribed, you can prevent future flare ups or exacerbations that come on unannounced. 

Q: What does it mean when asthma isn’t controlled?

Poorly controlled asthma is when a patient is using their medications as prescribed and still having asthma attacks. Patients with severe asthma rely on high doses of medications, including inhaled, oral, and biologics, to maintain control of asthma.

If asthma goes uncontrolled, it can limit the daily activities of a patient, cause nighttime awakenings, and prevent a patient from going about their daily life.

If your child is requiring their inhaler multiple times a week, it is important to have an open discussion with your pediatrician about next steps which may include seeing a specialist. 

Q: What is an Asthma Action Plan?

An Asthma Action Plan is a document that you and your pediatrician or allergist can fill out together that gives clear directions on what to do if your child experiences asthma symptoms. Having a clear care plan for asthma can take the guesswork and anxiety out of trying to know what to do when your child’s symptoms are severe.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) has some great examples and tips for completing an Asthma Action Plan.

There are so many other fabulous organizations with helpful information for your asthma journey:

Final Thoughts on Having a Care Plan for Asthma

Preparation is key when it comes to controlling asthma. So having a care plan for your child’s asthma is imperative, especially as kids are heading back to school and back to germs that can trigger asthma attacks.

Keep in touch with your pediatrician to update them on any changes in your child’s symptoms as a medication update may be in order.

~Dr. Katie


I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc and Sanofi Genzyme to write about asthma as a chronic disease and new treatments. All opinions are my own.

Med-IQ is an accredited medical education company that provides an exceptional educational experience for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals.

As a pediatrician, I chose to partner with Med-IQ to help generate awareness around
asthma and how to advocate for your own treatment course with your healthcare team.

*Links to external sites are provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only. They are not intended and should not be construed as legal or medical advice, nor are they endorsements of any organization. Med-IQ bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or content of any external site. Contact the external site for answers to questions regarding its content.

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