Childhood asthma is the most common chronic condition in children. Asthma in children causes chronic inflammation of the airways. That means the airways are always inflamed, even when kids aren’t having any symptoms. Asthma and allergies are closely linked, so when children with asthma breathe in allergens like dust, smoke, pet dander, cold air and pollen, their airways become irritated. In some kids, exercise irritates the airways. What happens next is the airways constrict, or tighten, and produce a lot of mucous. Children with asthma then begin to cough, wheeze, experience chest tightness and have difficulty breathing. This is called an asthma attack or flare-up.
No one knows what causes asthma in children, but kids who have a family history are more at risk. Kids who are born prematurely, have a lot of respiratory infections, eczema or allergies are also more at risk. Low-income kids are more likely to have asthma, but we don’t know why. African-American kids have the highest asthma rates and are more likely to end up hospitalized for asthma attack. Understanding allergies and asthma and learning to avoid asthma triggers can help all children with asthma prevent an asthma attack.