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Pediatric and Adolescent

Your Frequently Asked Questions about Asthma in Children

What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways.

Three things happen when you have asthma:

·         Airways spasm

·         Inflammation of the airways lining cause airways to become narrow

·         Increased mucus production


What causes asthma?

Genetics and environmental factors play a significant role in making airways very sensitive to allergens. 

Some other known factors are:

·         Exposure to cigarette smoke

·         Outdoor and indoor air pollution such as dust mites, pet dander, pollen and mold

·         Food allergies

·         Certain viral infections at a very young age 

·         Weather changes or extreme temperature change

·         Sometimes, asthma occurs with no apparent triggers


What are the risk factors?

Factors that may increase your child's likelihood of developing asthma are:

·         Exposure to tobacco smoke

·         Previous allergic reactions, including skin reactions, food allergies or hay fever (allergic rhinitis)

·         A family history of asthma, allergic rhinitis, or eczema

·         Sinusitis

·         Low birth weight


Is there a test to diagnose asthma?

·         Asthma is a clinical diagnosis which means it is diagnosed based on obtaining a thorough medical history, a lung examination, and a breathing test (depending on the child’s age).

·         Children 6 years of age and older undergo a breathing test that measures lung function – the measurement of how quickly and how much air your child can breathe out in a single breath.

·         A breathing test helps diagnose but a diagnosis does not solely depend on test results.

·         Asthma is a reversible disease and it is possible to have a normal breathing test in between the episodes of asthma exacerbation.

·         Early diagnosis and proper treatment can prevent interferences with daily activities such as sleep, play, sports, and school.


If allergies are triggering asthma:


·         Allergy testing can be done. 



How do you treat it?           

The goal of asthma treatment is to keep symptoms under control all of the time. If your child has well-controlled asthma, he/she will have:

·         Minimal or no symptoms.

·         Few or no asthma flare-ups.

·         No limitations on physical activities or exercise.

·         Minimal use of quick-relief (rescue) inhalers or nebulizer, such as albuterol.


Treatment of asthma involves:

·         Preventing symptoms through long-term daily control medications which help reduce the inflammation and mucus production in airways 

·         Treating asthma attacks with quick-relief medications which open swollen airways so that your child can breathe easily.

·         Allergy medications – use of oral and nasal spray to control allergies. 



Can you prevent asthma?

Avoiding asthma triggers are the best ways to prevent asthma attacks. Avoiding triggers such as tobacco smoke during infancy, an avoidable strong risk factor for childhood asthma, can help prevent a child from developing this respiratory condition.


Will my child outgrow asthma?

This is a very individualized question. Some asthma improves over a period of time during adolescence and young adulthood. Some children only have their symptoms go away for a short period of time. Other children may never outgrow their asthma. Also, children with more severe asthma are less likely to outgrow it.


Can children with asthma participate in sports?

Asthmatic children can play sports as long as their asthma is well controlled.


Can asthma cause complications?

 Asthma may cause a number of complications, including:

·         Severe asthma attacks can lead to low oxygen in blood, respiratory failure and air leak 

·         Permanent narrowing of the airways (bronchial tubes) leading to abnormal lung function

·         Missing school days and getting behind in school

·         Poor sleep and chronic fatigue and irritable behavior

·         Interference with sports or other routine activities with poorly controlled asthmatics


Can asthma be cured?

Asthma can't be cured, but you can keep symptoms at a minimum by using a written asthma action plan you develop with your child's doctor to track symptoms so that treatment can be adjusted.  



Persistent wheezing during early childhood or having eczema or hay fever, are clues that your child may develop or have asthma that's likely to persist into adolescence and adulthood. It is important to develop a written asthma action plan with the help of your doctor, so you can track the occurrences and severity of the onset of symptoms or attacks. 


Asthma can be life threatening. If a child is unable to speak in full sentences, and is confused and/or weak, or his or her skin is turning blue or grey, seek IMMEDIATE medical attention. A parent should not waste time calling a doctor at this point. Call 911 immediately.


For more information or questions contact the Division of Pediatric Pulmonology at 732-565-5467.

The Division of Pulmonology at The Children’s Hospital at Saint Peter’s University Hospital diagnoses and manages acute and chronic respiratory disorders and diseases such as asthma in children of all ages. Saint Peter’s offers comprehensive pulmonary evaluation, treatment and management for children with:


  • Asthma
  • Wheezing
  • Croup
  • Chronic cough
  • Trouble breathing with exercise
  • Pneumonia
  • Recurrent and persistent pneumonia
  • Unusual respiratory infections
  • Bronchopulmonary dysplasia/chronic lung disease

As part of our comprehensive neonatology services, premature babies with underdeveloped lungs are treated for the following conditions:

  • Snoring and obstructive sleep apnea
  • Pulmonary complications from neuromuscular disease
  • Airway and chest wall abnormalities
  • Apnea or abnormal breathing pattern
  • Cystic fibrosis

Diagnostic testing and treatment used to treat infants and children include:

  • Spirometry
  • Pulmonary function testing
  • Flexible bronchoscopy to help view inside the lungs
  • Chest X-rays and computed tomography (CT scan)
  • Sweat testing and genetic testing to diagnose cystic fibrosis
  • Exercise testing to assess lung function in children with exercise-induced symptoms

Contact Us

Pediatric Pulmonology
254 Easton Avenue
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Medical Office Building
3rd Floor
P (732) 565-5467
F (732) 745-9302

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