Asthma currently affects approximately 6.8 million children in the United States and is one of the leading reasons that kids are admitted to the hospital, since when childhood asthma isn’t well managed, it can lead to all sorts of health complications. Childhood asthma is also one of the biggest reasons that kids miss school, which can cause them to fall behind in their class work.

The good news, though, is that proper health care and management, children with asthma can control their symptoms and in many cases, can keep up with their non-asthmatic friends in everything from academics to social events. Many kids with asthma can even participate successful in a wide range of sports and other strenuous activities.

Facts about Childhood Asthma The experts say that the key to helping your child with asthma to stay active is to keep his or her condition well under control. In order to do that, it can help for you and your child to understand exactly what childhood asthma is and what causes it to occur.

In the simplest terms, asthma is actually an inflammation of the airways. Asthmatics typically have an overly reactive immune system that responds to a variety of triggers, including allergens, colds and infections and stress, by narrowing and filling with mucus, which makes it difficult for move air in and out.

As a result, when your son or daughter experiences childhood asthma, he or she may feel short of breath, experience chest tightness and pain, and cough and wheeze. The severity of the symptoms can vary from one child to the next and even from one attack to the next in the same individual.

That’s why it is always important to stay on top of the condition and note any changes in how your child acts or feels. It is also crucial to take all medications exactly as the doctor directs, since this can be essential in heading off an asthma attack.

Asthma Action Plan You may be worried about missing the signs that your child is becoming ill, or about not knowing how to respond if your child has an asthma attack despite your best attacks to manage the condition.

You don’t have to wonder what to do, though. The best way to manage asthma today is to follow an asthma action plan, which spells out everything you need to know in a whole host of scenarios. You should work with your child’s doctor to develop this plan, which is really a written set of instructions that lists the triggers that cause your child’s symptoms, provides the steps on how to prevent and treat an asthma attack, reminds you to monitor your child’s breathing using a plastic device called a peak flow monitor (this easy-to-use tool measures his or her ability to push air out of the lungs) and helps alert you to the warning signs of when your child is getting into his or her danger zone and needs you to intervene with medication.

Be Prepared When it comes to childhood asthma, most doctors also stress to parents the importance of always erring on the side of caution when you think your child may be having difficulty breathing. Keep in mind that a severe asthma attack that isn’t treated can quickly escalate to a life threatening situation. Some of the warning signs that your child could need immediate medical attention include:

• Difficulty completing a sentence without gasping.

• Breathing using the abdominal muscles or sucking the stomach in beneath the ribs to breathe.

• Flared nostrils. Remember that with proper management and treatment, though, childhood asthma can be controlled effectively so you and your child can focus on other, more enjoyable, things.