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Understanding the Importance of Identifying What Triggers Asthma in Children

Understanding the Importance of Identifying What Triggers Asthma in Children

If you are a parent who manages your child’s asthma condition, one of the most challenging aspects can be understanding what triggers their symptoms. What triggers asthma in children is complex and can include a variety of factors, ranging from allergens to environmental pollutants. 

Many of us who live with food allergies also live with asthma. Kortney and Shahla, co-founders at Zestfull, both manage asthma. Kortney is an allergy adult, and Shahla’s two girls live with childhood asthma, so we know how difficult the asthma journey can be: getting a diagnosis, creating an asthma action plan with your healthcare team, and finding the right support from family and friends, school, and caregivers.

Successful asthma management takes a village, but it can be done if everyone works together. Your child does not have to just survive but can thrive!  

This post is part of our Knowledge is Power Program, in collaboration with Allergy Insider. Here is our free downloadable patient information sheet on understanding the importance of identifying what triggers asthma in children and to help you navigate managing your child’s asthma. We hope that parents can use this as a tool and share it with their Healthcare Providers (HCPs) to help guide their discussions in the shared decision-making process.

Why is asthma so tricky to diagnose in young children? 

Sometimes, the path to an asthma diagnosis is not always clear and straightforward, especially if your child is younger. Kids often get sick with symptoms of wheezing and coughing that can be mistaken for the common cold.

For us, the time from signs and symptoms to diagnosis was the most challenging – there was so much uncertainty as a mother. I was seeking answers that I could not find and I felt very alone in my journey.  I wish we had resources on the identification of common asthma triggers, including the pros and cons of each medication for the different types of asthma.

-Shachi Doshi, Allergy Mom & Director of Patient Insights, Genentech

Getting the right care for asthma in a timely manner can make all the difference. It can either result in a delayed diagnosis that increases the risk of asthma complications or if seen quickly, you can start taking specific steps with your HCP to reduce exposure to your child’s asthma triggers. That’s why we’ve created this free download as a starting point for discussion with your HCP to help you feel empowered when navigating your child’s asthma. 

Did you know there are two main types of asthma: allergic and non-allergic?  While the underlying mechanisms differ, both types of asthma can cause similar symptoms, including wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath.

  • Allergic Asthma: is triggered by allergens such as pollen, pet dander, mold, or dust mites. When a child with allergic asthma is exposed to these allergens, their immune system overreacts, leading to inflammation and constriction of the airways. 
  • Non-Allergic Asthma: factors such as cold air, exercise, stress, or respiratory infections can be triggers. 

Our friends at Allergy Insider have a great explanation about environmental triggers that are not IgE-mediated but can exacerbate symptoms of allergic asthma. 

Why is it important to know about the 2 types of asthma? 

The sooner you understand what type of asthma your child has, the easier it will be to identify your child’s triggers so that you can help minimize their exposure. 

When my daughter was young, she would get sick a lot, with a terrible cough. It would often take weeks for her to recover from what we thought was a common cold. One year, she had pneumonia three times and ended up in the hospital from an asthma attack, finally diagnosed with asthma. 

In addition to colds being her trigger, she is allergic to dust mites and pet dander. Identifying her triggers has alleviated uncertainty and helped us to work with her pulmonologist to come up with a yearly plan so that her asthma does not get out of control.

-Shahla, Zestfull Co-founder

Allergic asthma testing: why get tested?

The first step in identifying what triggers asthma in children is to get allergy tested, which can help pinpoint specific allergens that may be flaring your child’s asthma symptoms. This is a crucial step in effectively managing their condition and becoming a more empowered patient. 

PRO TIP: Did you know you can request specific IgE testing from either your allergist or primary care provider?  Bring our patient information sheet on allergic asthma to your next appointment as a starting point for discussion with your clinician. 

Your child has an asthma diagnosis. Now what? 

Whether your child has allergic or non-allergic asthma or maybe a little of both, you can then take proactive steps to reduce your child’s exposure to triggers in your home environment or even when they are not in the comfort of their home, for example, at school or traveling.

First and foremost, develop an asthma action plan with your HCP. Share it with your child’s school, caregivers and family. 

At school: Make sure you, your child and school administrators understand the plan in the case of an emergency, and have quick access and training on necessary medications, such as rescue inhalers.

  • For children who have difficulties during certain seasons and miss a lot of school, creating a 504 plan for asthma is essential. You can ask for more time for your child to turn in their work or complete a project.
  • Your child can self-carry their rescue inhaler.
  • In physical education (P.E.), your child is exempt from certain activities.

While traveling: Don’t let your asthma stop you from seeing the world.

Allie Bahn - allergy inspiration

It’s important to make sure all medicine is kept in an easily accessible place when traveling. Keep it on you if you are flying and be sure to have it close by in the car, not in the trunk.

If you are managing environmental allergies, I always suggest making sure to pack an allergy pillowcase for sleeping.

-Allie, Miss Allergic Reactor

What you can do to help your child maintain an asthma management routine 

  • Avoid triggers: Take steps to minimize your child’s exposure to known asthma triggers, whether it’s pollen, pet dander, or environmental pollutants. 
  • Create a safe environment: Keep your home clean and allergen-free. 

Here are some of our favourite ways to maintain a low-allergen environment:

See Also
504 plan for food allergies

  • Keep windows closed during high pollen seasons
  • Use air purifiers with HEPA filters.
  • Washing our clothes and hair on high pollen count days have helped us to avoid tracking pollen in the house and on our beds. 
  • Although stuffed animals are cute, Shahla’s allergist recommends removing them from the home as they collect dust. Instead of getting rid of them and facing complete meltdowns from the kids, they keep a few of their favorite loveys.  Regularly washing and throwing them in the dryer on high heat helps to zap those unwanted mites! 
  • Use washable window coverings, such as curtains, dust-mite bedding protectors, and pillow coverings, to help keep allergens out.
  • Get a humidity reader for your home. Kortney’s asthma management has improved. Now, she can ensure that her house’s humidity measures below 50%, creating an inhospitable environment for dust mites.

PRO TIP: Complete Allergy Insider’s Allergy Symptom Questionnaire before your appointment and take it with you to help facilitate a conversation with your HCP.  

Empower your child to live their best life with allergic asthma

  • Educate family/friends: on how to recognize and respond to your child’s asthma symptoms.
  • Set boundaries and advocate for your child’s health and well-being by suggesting alternative activities for gathering. The bowling alley or library might be more fun and safe than the park if you know, for example being outside might have the potential to trigger symptoms. 
  • Empower your child: on how to recognize and manage their symptoms independently. Empowering them with knowledge and self-care skills can help build confidence and improve their quality of life.

Because our son was only three years old when he was diagnosed with asthma, he didn’t understand why he needed an inhaler. We watched Daniel the Tiger’s episode on asthma and he was able to quickly grasp why he needed an inhaler. This also helped him feel less alone. 

We encourage our son to do breathing exercises and a few yoga poses during the week so that it helps him with building his lung capacity. He loves to do these exercises together as a family. 

Finally, we empower him by telling him he needs to speak up at school, especially when he is not feeling well or having difficulty breathing

-Shachi Doshi, Allergy Mom & Director of Patient Insights, Genentech

Knowing your child’s asthma triggers is essential for effectively helping them manage their condition and preventing asthma attacks. Consult with your child’s healthcare team for personalized guidance and support. Identify whether their asthma is allergic or non-allergic. And, by taking proactive steps to reduce exposure to triggers, you can help your child lead a healthier and more active life. 

Click on our patient information sheet to feel more empowered. Bring it to your child’s next appointment as a starting point for discussion.  

This article is part of the #KnowledgeisPower program, sponsored by Allergy Insider. Our downloadable patient information sheets are not intended as direct medical advice but as a starting point for discussion with your doctor.

The tips and stories in this program are personal experiences from patients shared with their permission. Gary Falcetano, PA-C, AE-C Scientific Affairs Manager at Thermo Fisher Scientific, has medically reviewed and approved all resources.

The Zestfull Corp. is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

© 2021 Zestfull. All rights reserved.

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