By Raising Children Network
spacer spacer PInterest spacer
spacer Print spacer Email

did you knowQuestion mark symbol

  • Asthma is the most common chronic medical condition seen in children in Australia.
  • Asthma affects around one in five children.
  • At this stage we don’t know how to stop asthma from developing.
Asthma is when a child’s airway passages are narrowed, which means the child doesn’t get enough air into and out of her lungs. The causes of asthma include genes and family history of allergic diseases. Asthma triggers include viral infections, allergens and weather changes.

What is asthma?

In asthma, the small airway passages (bronchi) in a child’s lungs are narrowed. This happens when the muscles in the wall of the airway passages get inflamed and tighten up.

This narrowing of the airway passages means your child gets less air into and out of his lungs. This causes wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and uncomfortable breathing.

Causes of asthma: genetic predisposition, inducers and triggers

Children with asthma probably inherit genes that cause asthma from their parents. This is called a genetic predisposition.

Then early in life, something switches on the child’s asthma. This thing is called an ‘inducer’. The asthma inducer might be a viral infection, an allergen or something in the environment that irritates the child’s airways.

If you, your child’s other parent or other family members have asthma, eczema, hay fever or allergies, there’s an increased chance your child will also have asthma.

Many triggers can cause acute asthma attacks. These triggers vary from child to child.

The most common trigger is a viral infection, usually the common cold. Other triggers include pollens, exercise, changes in the weather, cold air, exposure to cigarette smoke or pollution, house dust mites and pets.

Children with asthma react to asthma triggers by wheezing, coughing and becoming short of breath.

Passive smoking, or second-hand smoke, can lead to vulnerable children getting asthma.

Tests for asthma

Most children don’t need any special tests for asthma. Doctors usually diagnose asthma on the basis of your child’s medical history and by examining your child.

Children with more severe asthma, or who have frequent asthma attacks, might need special breathing tests or very occasionally an X-ray. These are often arranged by a paediatrician or respiratory specialist.

  • Last updated or reviewed 05-06-2015