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The ABCs of Asthma
According to the Asthma Society of Canada, asthma affects over half a million children in Canada. Asthma causes children and adolescents to miss school and causes parents to miss days at work. Asthma in children usually has many triggers. These triggers may change as a child ages. Some common triggers are pollen, pet dander, dust mites, tobacco smoke and exercise.
When exercising, you breathe through your mouth, and the air that hits your lungs is colder and drier. If your child has exercise-induced asthma, his or her lungs are overly sensitive to this sudden change in temperature and humidity, irritating the airways and triggering asthma symptoms. Some children with exercise-induced asthma tend to avoid play, and therefore parents and teachers may never realize the student is experiencing symptoms. It is important to explain to your child what asthma is, and how treating asthma will help their symptoms. As long as their asthma is under control, your child can and should exercise regularly.
Treatments for exercise induced asthma begin by choosing activities that often don’t trigger asthma, including walking, swimming, and bicycle riding. They can then work their way up to more strenuous activities such as soccer, basketball or hockey as their endurance increases.
Asthma and Allergies
Asthma is a chronic lung condition. The airways become inflamed and swollen, causing them to narrow. The airways produce mucus in response to the inflammation, clogging the shrunken tubes. Air can’t move through the lungs as well as it should, making it difficult to breathe. Everyone’s lungs are sensitive to different things such as pollen, air pollution, or strong chemicals. People with asthma have lungs that are more sensitive than average. Asthma is in part an allergic response and may be triggered by some external substance that particularly irritates your lungs. Some people are sensitive to more than one trigger. Common allergens include:
- grass, tree, and ragweed pollen
- house dust mites
- animal dander
Asthma attacks can also be triggered by non-allergic irritants such as:
- viral infections such as the common cold or the flu
- laughing hard, crying, shouting
- smog and smoke
- strong smells (e.g., paint fumes, perfumes, cleaning products)
- suddenly breathing cold air
- vigorous exercise
There is no cure for asthma. It’s a chronic condition, and it can last a lifetime. Asthma treatment is aimed at keeping you feeling well, with as few symptoms as possible. Avoiding triggers is your first defense against an asthma attack. Try using an asthma diary card to keep track of your symptoms and your surroundings. Most importantly, see you doctor and ask for help to achieve better asthma control.