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 Integrative Medicine: Childhood Asthma 
Asthma is an inflammatory respiratory illness characterized by mild to severe difficulty in breathing. This is caused by constriction and swelling of the airways, along with an increase in accretions of mucus, which plugs up the smaller passages. As a result, air cannot get into or out of the lungs as easily as it usually does. Wheezing results as air squeaks through the narrowed and inflamed air passages. An asthma attack can cause such shortness of breath and poor oxygen intake that a child may need to be hospitalized.

Asthma can be triggered by a variety of things, including exposure to pollen, dust, feathers, molds, animal dander, pollution, cigarette smoke, or cold dry air, as well as an upper respiratory infection, exercise, excitement, and stress. Sometimes a child will develop an asthma attack for no apparent reason.

A child experiencing an asthma attack will cough, wheeze, have an increased respiratory rate, have a feeling of tightness in her chest, and have difficulty breathing. Early signs of an asthma attack include an itchy throat, a change in breathing pattern, fatigue, paleness, nervousness, a runny nose, or moodiness. It is important to watch your child carefully and treat her quickly if you notice an asthma attack coming on. If you have any doubts as to your child's breathing, don't hesitate to call your doctor.

If your child suffers from asthma, one simple way you can monitor her breathing is with an instrument called a peak flow meter, available at many large drug stores and through medical supply catalogs. These are relatively inexpensive, simple-to-use devices that measure how much airpressure your child can exert with a full exhalation. The meter's indicator can be used to compare how your child's air flow changes from day to day. By monitoring this way, you will have a more reliable means of determining whether your child's condition is getting better or worse. Your physician will help you determine what to watch for with your child.

Conventional Treatment
For chronic asthma, steroids are currently the conventional treatment of choice. These medicines work by decreasing the swelling and inflammation of the airways. They can be taken orally or inhaled. Inhaled steroids (including Beclovent, Vanceril, AeroBid, and Azmacort) are more commonly used; oral steroids (such as Pediapred) are generally used only in more severe cases. All steroids potentially have significant side effects, especially when taken over the long term, that need to be understood. Talk this over with your doctor or nurse.
Emergency Treatment for Asthma

In the event of a severe asthma attack, you need to seek immediate medical care for your child. If your child's asthma is not resolving using the treatments you know, call your physician and take your child to the emergency room.

At the hospital, your child will probably be given an inhaled medication that sprays a bronchodilator (a substance that opens air passages to restore free breathing) directly into the airways. If this does not help, she may receive other drugs, such as intravenous steroids or theophyl-line, and may need to be hospitalized. In some cases a child will need to receive oxygen to ease the work of breathing.

(Excerpted from Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child ISBN: 1583331395)
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 About The Author
Janet Zand LAc, OMDJANET ZAND, O.M.D., L.Ac. is a nationally respected author, lecturer, practitioner and herbal products formulator whose work has helped thousands of people achieve better health....more
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