Various triggers — materials in the air, such as smoke and pollution, as well as some respiratory infections — can cause asthma attacks.
Common asthma triggers and what you can do to address them:
- Secondhand tobacco smoke. Create a smoke-free environment in your home and car, and make sure no one smokes at your child’s day care. If you need to quit, Norton Healthcare Prevention & Wellness offers the American Lung Association’s free Freedom From Smoking program.
- Dust mites. Use allergen-proof mattress and pillowcase covers to create a barrier. Wash bedding weekly once a week and dry it completely. Vacuum carpets and other flooring regularly with a vacuum that has a HEPA filter.
- Pet dander. Keep the pet out of the child’s room at all times and wash the furry animal weekly.
- Cleaning products and disinfectants. Avoid products with fragrances. Use soap and water, or cleaners that have ingredients that are safe for human health and the environment.
- Cockroaches and other pests. Keep areas where food is consumed free of crumbs and ensure that food is stored in airtight containers. Keep counters, sinks, tables and floors clean and free of clutter. Avoid sprays and foggers against pests, as these can cause asthma attacks.
- Airborne irritants. When possible, avoid air pollution, wood fires, charcoal grills, pollen, mold and cigarette smoke.
Flu, colds, sinus infections and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can cause an attack.
During an asthma attack, the lungs and other parts of the upper respiratory system can react quickly to the trigger, causing airways to constrict and become obstructed. Difficulty breathing can occur in waves, with moments of relief between gasps for breath.
- Inflammation – The inner lining of the airways swells due to a trigger, making them more sensitive.
- Hypersecretion – An increase in the production of sticky mucus, commonly known as phlegm or referred to as sputum.
- Bronchoconstriction – The muscles around the airways tighten, making the airways even more narrow, and the lungs become more sensitive.
- Airway obstruction – Extra mucus and inflammatory swelling block the airways.
Levels of Asthma
The specialists at Norton Children’s Pulmonology, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, will use four levels of asthma to diagnose your child’s asthma and guide your child’s treatment:
- Intermittent: Symptoms happen two or fewer days per week; nighttime flare-ups occur twice a month at most; asthma symptoms requiring treatment with corticosteroids happen no more than once per year; no interference with normal activity
- Mild persistent: Symptoms happen more than two days per week, but not daily; nighttime flare-ups occur more than twice a month, but no more than once per week; child’s normal activity has minor limitations
- Moderate persistent: Symptoms occur daily; nighttime awakenings happen at least once per week, but not nightly; flare-ups occur and can last several days, disrupting the child’s normal activity; rescue medications are used daily; lung function ranges between 60% and 80% without treatment
- Severe persistent: Symptoms occur daily and often; nighttime awakenings happen at least once a day; rescue medications are used several times per day; the child’s normal activity is extremely limited; lung function is less than 60% without treatment