Where’s the Air? A Kids Guide to Asthma and Safety

Authored by Dr. Jeff Bennert

Have you ever been out of breath? If so, you know that it can be a little scary to work hard just to breathe. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 6 million kids experience asthma-related symptoms. Because an asthma attack can be scary, it is important to understand what asthma is, how it can be treated, and what should be done in an emergency.

The easiest way to understand asthma is to think about the breathing tubes that are inside the lungs. These tubes make sure that air gets into the lungs. If they are sensitive and begin to swell, there is less space for air to move into the lungs. This can make it more difficult to take oxygen in and tougher for a person to breathe. Sometimes you can hear a person making a wheezing sound as they try to get air into their lungs. You might also hear a person complain that their chest feels tight.

Inhalers are the most common way to treat asthma. Some fast-acting inhalers are used when an asthma attack begins. They work to deliver necessary medicine to the breathing tubes in order to help with the swelling. This opens up the space in the tubes and allows oxygen to flow into the lungs easier. Other inhalers are taken on a regular basis and sometimes contain steroids. These inhalers help to strengthen the airways and prevent asthma attacks from happening.

If a person is starting to experience shortness of breath, coughing, or wheezing, it is time to find an adult and find out if any inhalers are available to help the person take in more oxygen. If breathing really becomes difficult or the inhaler isn’t working, it means that a person needs to see a doctor right away. It is possible for kids to avoid things that might trigger an attack, like certain allergies. By keeping up with medications and being aware of oncoming asthma symptoms, it is possible to lead a normal life.

  • Who Gets Asthma and What Causes It? In addition to information about breathing in general, the site details what happens when a child experiences an asthma attack. Be sure to watch the video on getting a spirometry (breathing test).
  • Childhood Asthma: Diagnosis, Management, and More: After an explanation of diagnosing asthma and how to manage it, the site offers answers to common questions and tips for healthy living.
  • Myths and Facts About Asthma: Many families have heard things about asthma that may create unnecessary anxiety. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia details some of the common myths and facts surrounding asthma in children.
  • Normal Bronchiole vs. Asthmatic Bronchiole: The University of Maryland Medical Center explains the causes of asthma but also shows a picture of how the bronchiole is affected by the condition.
  • Childhood Asthma: Dispelling Some Commonly Held Beliefs: Which is better, a nebulizer or an inhaler? Can a child grow out of asthma? Questions like this are clearly answered by the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.
  • Asthma Inhalers: Which One’s Right for You? The Mayo Clinic provides detailed information about various types of inhalers. Nebulizers and metered-dose inhalers with face masks are also explained.
  • How Can an Asthma Episode Be Prevented? The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America discusses how to avoid triggers, the importance of taking medication, and how to recognize early warning signs.
  • What Is the Difference Between a Nebulizer and an Inhaler? The Children’s Hospital of Colorado explains the two most common devices to help when asthma symptoms are beginning.
  • How to Use Inhaled Medication for Asthma and COPD (PDF): Diagrams, along with detailed explanations, are provided to show how different inhalers work, including those with a spacer.
  • Keeping Students Breathing Safe and In School (PDF): In addition to detailing asthma and what triggers it, Columbia University also offers clear diagrams of inflammation and bronchoconstriction common to asthma.
  • Lung Diagram Showing Normal Function of Airways and Function With Asthma Symptoms: In addition to general details about asthma, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute shows a diagram of the lungs that is easy to understand.
  • Teaching Your Child About Asthma: Asthma can affect kids differently based on their age. This site describes how asthma can be different during various stages of life and what can be done to better manage the experience.
  • Asthma Basics for Children (PDF): This document explains how to manage asthma symptoms in order to stay in school. There is even a list that helps a person decide whether or not a child should go to school with certain asthma symptoms.
  • Asthma Fast Facts for Kids (PDF): The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put together a paper that helps kids understand asthma and gives tips for staying active.
  • How to Use an Inhaler (PDF): Learning how to use an inhaler can be tricky. This document, produced by the Wisconsin Asthma Coalition, explains how to use a metered-dose inhaler with an open mouth as well as how to use an inhaler with a spacer. In addition to the directions and pictures, there are links at the bottom to YouTube videos for a more detailed demonstration.