• Frequently Asked Questions

    The Asthma Center at Cincinnati Children’s provides answers to frequently asked questions on causes, management and treatment.

  • Asthma is a chronic condition involving the airways. All asthmatics experience variable, but widespread narrowing of the airways or bronchial tubes. The narrowing results from swelling of the airway lining, increased mucus production, tightening of the muscles around the airways and accumulation of inflammatory cells in the airway. This narrowing causes cough, wheeze and shortness of breath. The narrowing is at least partially reversible with treatment.

    The basic cause of asthma is not yet known, but the condition probably results from chronic inflammation in the airways.  About 9 million American children have asthma, and the number of people who have asthma is increasing worldwide. Asthma is not contagious. However, asthma does run in families and is thought to have a genetic cause.  There are many different types of asthma, ranging from mild to moderate to severe.

    Certain things – called triggers – can cause asthma attacks or make asthma worse. Staying away from or getting rid of triggers can help control asthma symptoms. Some common triggers include: animal dander or fur, mold, household dust, cigarette smoke, exercise, weather changes and viral or sinus infections.

    Emotional stress can occasionally trigger an attack, but emotional problems are not the cause of asthma.

    Children who have allergies to elements of the environment such as pollen, animals, mold, dust and food are more likely to have asthma. Asthma is more likely to develop in children who were born prematurely.

    Some children stop having asthma as they get older, but in the majority of cases, asthma is a lifelong, chronic disease that requires ongoing treatment. The symptoms of asthma usually come and go, but even when the cough and wheezing are gone, the asthma is not gone. Just because a child with asthma is feeling fine and isn’t noticing any symptoms for a few weeks or months does not mean he or she does not have asthma.  Remember, asthma can be controlled, but not cured.

    Asthma medications are not addictive and your child will not become “immune” to the beneficial effects by using them regularly. Asthma is different in every patient, and symptoms can change over time. The doctor will determine which asthma medication is best. All medications have potential side effects, and your child should be monitored by you and your physician.  However, at recommended doses, asthma medications are safe when used properly.

    Yes. Please remember asthma does not go away just because the symptoms go away. Some medications, called controllers, need to be taken daily to control asthma. If your child needs daily preventative asthma medication, but does not always take it, then asthma symptoms can worsen and may cause a serious asthma attack. You must keep monitoring and taking care of your child’s asthma at all times.

    Asthma cannot be cured, but with treatment, it can be controlled.

    The doctors, nurse practitioner and nurses in the Asthma Center have specialized expertise in pediatric asthma and other lung diseases that are sometimes mistaken for asthma.   An asthma specialist can help when children have difficult to control asthma, identify and treat other medical conditions that make asthma worse, and can use tools and tests that are not available to the general pediatrician. We are knowledgeable about the latest developments in asthma research and the care of pediatric asthma. Our multi-disciplinary team provides a comprehensive evaluation of your child’s breathing, including state-of-the-art diagnostic testing, in order to provide the best individualized treatment plan to manage your child’s asthma. 

    The treatment plan that is developed will be shared with your pediatrician or family doctor; we recognize that s/he is an important part of your child’s asthma care.

    Your child should see an asthma specialist if he/she:

    • Has poorly controlled asthma
    • Has needed treatment with oral steroids (prednisone) more than once in the past year
    • Has daytime or nighttime symptoms every week
    • Has trouble breathing during activity/playing
    • Is missing days of school because of asthma
    • Had to visit the emergency room or hospital more than once in the past year
    • Needed to be in the intensive care unit for breathing issues
    • Is not responding to or is having side effects from medications

    Well controlled asthma means ALL of the following:

    • minimal or no asthma symptoms (cough, wheezing or shortness of breath) on a day to day basis
    • minimal or no acute asthma episodes or attacks (including ER visits or hospitalizations)
    • not requiring oral steroids (prednisone) more than once per year
    • no limitations on activities or school attendance
    • no more than twice a week use of quick acting rescue medicines such as albuterol
    • normal lung function when well

    An easy way to see if your child’s asthma is under control is to take the Asthma Control Test.

    In some cases, no. Some young children who have a form of asthma that is only active when the child has a viral respiratory infection (common cold) can be managed with medications used just at the time of illness. This type of plan does not work for every child; your asthma specialist will help decide if this plan is right for your child.

  • Learn More

    Learn more about asthma, including signs and symptoms, causes and what to do during an attack.

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