Asthma is the most common chronic (long-term) respiratory disease in children and affects more than 6 million kids in the United States -- this is equivalent to 8% of the pediatric population in the Central Valley. In some parts of the Valley, more than 30% of the population lives with asthma and according to Kids Data, approximately 14% of children in California have not been formally diagnosed.
Asthma occurs when the airways tighten, swell and fill with mucous. Although it is not well understood why some people get asthma and others do not, we do know that it tends to run in families. When someone has an asthma attack, or “flare-up,” their symptoms worsen and may include trouble breathing, wheezing, chest tightness and coughing.
Things that cause asthma to flare up are called “triggers.” In an ideal world, children with asthma would avoid all triggers, but this isn’t always possible. For kids with asthma, consider these tips recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on managing common triggers:
|What to Do
| Outdoor Allergens such as pollen, dust, smog, smoke from forest fires, and other outdoor air pollutants
- Limit exposure to outdoor allergens by keeping your home windows closed.
- Use an air purifier with a HEPA filter.
- Wash pollen or any outdoor debris off of your little ones as soon as they come inside from outdoor play.
Indoor Allergens such as dust, dust mites, cockroaches, and mold spores
- Limit your child’s exposure by washing children’s bedding and stuffed animals in hot water at least once a week.
- Use allergy-proof covers on pillows and mattresses.
- Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter and vacuum when children are not in the home.
| Indoor Air Pollutants such as tobacco smoke, perfumes, ozone-producing air purifiers and scented cleaning products
- Avoid second and third hand tobacco smoke exposure.
- Use unscented cleaning products, ensure good ventilation when using them and clean when children are not in the home.
| Viral Respiratory Infections such as the common cold or COVID
- Practice good hand hygiene, covering your cough, and continue wearing a mask to limit exposure to viruses.
|Exercise, while important for kids, can also be a trigger
- Have your child’s inhaler stocked and readily available.
- Talk to your child’s doctor to see if they need to use their inhaler before physical activity.
|Pet/Animal Allergens found in dander (skin), urine and saliva (drool) are not only limited to dogs and cats, but can include other small animals such as mice, rabbits and gerbils
- Avoidance of allergenic animals is recommended.
- If avoidance is not possible, frequent and thorough cleaning of the home, as well as use of a HEPA filter, can help.
|Weather such as hot humid air, cold dry air, or changes in the weather
- Talk with your child’s doctor about adjusting medications during the triggering weather seasons.
Ask your pediatrician if you have any questions regarding asthma triggers and how to protect your children, especially during the Valley’s hot summer months. If you encounter an emergency, call 9-1-1 or head to your closest emergency department.
About the Author
Dr. Carmela Sosa has practiced pediatrics in both the urban and rural health settings – always focused on children with special healthcare needs and pediatric mental health. She joined Valley Children’s Charlie Mitchell Children’s Center in April 2012 to provide complex primary care to children of the Valley. Her roles expanded in 2016 to include Associate Program Director of the Valley Children’s Pediatric Residency Program, and again in 2019 to Medical Director of Valley Children’s Primary Care and Medical Director of the Guilds Center for Community Health.