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Tips for Parents and Caregivers

What is Asthma?
Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases in the United States. Asthma affects people of all ages. A survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control in 2002 reported that approximately 3.4 million children between the ages of 12 and 17 had been told by a healthcare professional that they had asthma; and 1.4 million of these children had experienced an asthma attack within the preceding 12 months. If you're the parent of a teen, look for the following symptoms in your teen, as they are indications of asthma: chronic coughing, wheezing, tightness in the chest, and shortness of breath. As a parent, asthma symptoms and asthma treatments can be frightening, but there are things you can do to make living with asthma easier for your teen and your entire family.

What is Allergic Asthma?
The most common form of asthma is allergic asthma; it affects over half of the teens diagnosed with asthma. The symptoms of allergic asthma are the same as those for non-allergic asthma; however, allergic asthma is triggered by specific allergens. These allergens may include dust mites, cockroaches, pet dander, and molds. When these allergens are inhaled, they cause airways to become swollen, resulting in symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, tightness in the chest, and shortness of breath.

Getting a Diagnosis
The first step to helping your teen is getting a correct diagnosis and starting the appropriate treatment program. A doctor who is specially trained in treating asthma, such as an allergist or pulmonologist, can correctly diagnose the symptoms your teen is having and may help identify the allergens that trigger the disease. To diagnose symptoms accurately, the doctor may ask you the following types of questions:

  • How would you describe your teen's symptoms?
  • When he or she gets a cold, does it go right to the chest, and seem to last longer than it would in others?
  • What triggers the symptoms—pet dander, dust mites, cockroaches, or other allergens?
  • How often does your teen have symptoms and how bad are they?
  • Does he or she miss school, and if so, how often?
  • Do the symptoms affect his or her sleep?
  • Do allergies run in your family? 

The doctor may perform some tests to help diagnose your teen's condition. If his or her symptoms appear to be triggered by specific allergens, the doctor may also do an allergy evaluation to help identify the triggers accurately. There are many treatments available to help control allergic asthma, including a medication that specifically blocks the body's response to the allergen. An asthma specialist can advise you on which medications would be most beneficial to relieve the symptoms. Asthma is a chronic disease and currently there is no cure; however, for most people, asthma can be controlled with appropriate treatments. 


SOURCE: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care. First created 2004; most recently updated 2005.
© Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA)
 Editorial Board

© Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
www.aafa.org 1-800-7-ASTHMA