Breathe easier with asthma

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Affecting 9 million children, childhood asthma is the most common serious pediatric chronic disease, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. In Ohio, 13.3 percent of children are currently affected by asthma.

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways which accounts for 14.7 million missed school days a year.

"When you breathe, air passes into your lungs through many branching tubes called airways. With asthma, the airways are often swollen and red, or inflamed," explains Kimberly Spoonhower, M.D., a pediatric pulmonologist at the Children's Hospital Medical Center of Akron. "This makes your airways extra sensitive to things that you are exposed to in the environment every day, or asthma 'triggers.'"

Different people have different triggers. Common triggers include upper respiratory infections or colds, the weather, exercise (particularly in cold, dry air) or things in the environment, such as dust, strong smells, smoke and pet dander.

Dr. Spoonhower, the asthma expert for the Ohio Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics Asthma Pilot Project, continues by saying, "When someone with asthma breathes in a trigger, the airways are irritated, and the tiny muscles that wrap around airways can tighten. This narrows the space for air to move in and out of the lungs, and causes wheezing or coughing. The irritated airways also make extra mucus and swell even more, making it even harder to breathe. When that happens, it's called an asthma flare-up, asthma episode or asthma attack."

Doctors can prescribe inhaled rescue medications to help open the airways during an asthma attack. Doctors can also prescribed daily, inhaled medications to decrease the inflammation in the airways to help prevent asthma attacks and make airways less sensitive to triggers.

The signs and symptoms a child may have when experiencing an asthma attack include:

• Increased coughing

• Wheezing, or noisy breathing

• Shortness of breath

• Rapid breathing

• Difficulty walking or talking

• When breathing, an in-pulling between the ribs and above the breastbone

• Blue lips, tongue and/or fingertips

The best way to control asthma is to develop an Asthma Action Plan with your healthcare provider. Asthma Action Plans provide detailed, written instructions for when to take preventative medications, how to handle an asthma attack, and when to call your physician, or go to the emergency room.

If your child does have an asthma attack, remember these things:

1. Have your child stop the activity he/she is doing.

2. Stay calm.

3. Know your child's Asthma Action Plan.

4. Always have rescue medication immediately available, and know how to use it properly.

5. Call 911 if medication is not helping and your child is in severe distress.

For more information on asthma and specifically the school-aged athlete, visit the Ohio AAP website and download the Sports Shorts information sheet on asthma at Or click here to see them on