Asthma in Preschoolers

Deborah A. Santo, MD
Deborah A. Santo, MD

According to the Centers for Disease Control the prevalence of asthma in children under the age of 5 has significantly grown. In fact, the rates have jumped 160% within a 15-year time period. This chronic lung condition has become commonplace in Head Starts and early childhood centers.

"Because diagnostic tests like spirometry is generally not used in children younger than 6, a diagnosis of asthma in preschoolers is usually based on clinical judgment," said Deborah A. Santo, MD. Dr. Santo is a pediatrician who has been practicing for more than 25 years. "In assessing these children, we have to eliminate other conditions that may present similar symptoms, like bronchitis, pneumonia, gastroesophageal reflux, and colds caused by viruses such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)."

But once a diagnosis has been made, it's important for parents to work closely with the preschool nurse or other medical personnel to help monitor the child, pinpoint the asthma triggers, and control the condition.

There are different types of triggers that can cause the lungs' airways to narrow and swell.

Asthma Triggers

  1. Dust
  2. Animals
  3. Certain food allergies
  4. Pollens
  5. Viral Infections
  6. Smoke or second hand smoke
  7. Exercise
  8. Cold air
  9. Perfume
  10. Emotions
Asthma in Preschoolers

It's not uncommon to have one or two triggers, which is why it's important to monitor the child throughout the day.

Treating asthma attacks in preschool

"One treatment is the use of a nebulizer, which contains a short-acting beta agonist," said Dr. Santo. "A beta-agonist relaxes the muscles and opens the airways and lungs."

Nebulizers usually come with a mask to fit small faces. Some companies even make nebulizer masks with fun characters on them to make the experience a little less scary for small children.

A good asthma management plan should also be in place in most preschool settings. If not, resources are available through the Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center.

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