Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that causes the airways to become inflamed and irritated, usually in response to specific triggers like dust, pet dander or pollen, and also often as a result of a strenuous physical activity or extreme temperatures. As the airways become inflamed, they also constrict or narrow, making breathing much more difficult. Most people with asthma have symptoms like wheezing or hissing when breathing, difficulty breathing or coughing that occur during flare-ups. Children adolescents who have asthma are also more prone to developing other types of respiratory ailments like colds, flu, and even pneumonia.
The cause of asthma hasn't been identified, but researchers believe both genetics and environmental factors play a role.
Diagnosis begins with a family history to look for risk factors, including other family members with the disease. Often, wheezing or hissing noises can be heard through a stethoscopic evaluation of the lungs. In some cases, a breathing evaluation using a simple device called a spirometer is used to measure how well the lungs are functioning, and a chest x-ray may also be ordered to rule out other possible causes of symptoms
Some very mild types of asthma can be controlled by avoiding known triggers, but when asthma is more severe, or triggers can't be avoided, a small portable device called an inhaler can be used to deliver medication directly to the airways. Special extensions are available to make it easier for a child to use the inhaler, so the medicine is delivered appropriately. Nebulizers are another kind of medication delivery device that can also be used in some patients. Unlike inhalers, nebulizers use electricity, and they deliver medication for a longer duration. Children and adolescents with asthma should also be evaluated at the first sign of respiratory illness to prevent a serious infection from developing.
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