One child out of eight has asthma
One out of eight Canadian children has asthma. In Ontario it is nearly one out of five. As a result, every school will have a number of children with asthma and there are likely to be several children in each classroom with asthma as well.
Uncontrolled asthma is a leading cause of school absenteeism and may limit children's learning opportunities. Uncontrolled asthma also causes many nights of interrupted sleep, several days of limited activity, and disruptions in normal activities of life.
A national survey revealed that approximately 60% of Canadians with asthma have poor control of their condition. The majority of children with asthma are able to lead a normal life if appropriate medications are used and exposure to asthma triggers are reduced. Periodically, some children with asthma will experience an attack or episode of asthma symptoms. The condition is rarely fatal but should not be underestimated. More children are admitted to hospital with asthma than any other chronic condition. It is also a leading cause of emergency room visits.
What is asthma?
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition that occurs in the smaller airways of the lungs.
What happens when asthma is triggered?
When people with asthma come into contact with one of their triggers, three things happen. The lining of the airway starts to swell, mucus is secreted, and the muscles in the airway tighten or constrict. These three effects combine to make the airways very narrow, which makes it hard to breathe.
Sudden narrowing of the airways produce what is often called an asthma attack. Ongoing narrowing of the airways leads to less dramatic but more frequent symptoms of difficulty breathing, wheezing, and coughing. These symptoms can be reversed with medication and by reducing exposure to environmental triggers. Not every person will experience all of the symptoms listed. Often a cough may be the only symptom experienced.
What is an asthma trigger?
For children who have asthma, inflammation in the airways causes the airways to become extra sensitive to a variety of triggers in the environment. An asthma trigger is anything in the environment that causes or provokes asthma symptoms (cough, wheeze, difficulty breathing). Common triggers include viral infections (common colds); allergies (furry animals, house dust mites, pollen, and moulds); fumes (paints, indelible markers, perfumes, cleaning products and glue); extremes of temperature (cold or hot and humid); exercise; and emotions (i.e., laughing and/or crying). Most children with asthma have more than one trigger. However, the triggers and the degree of asthma symptoms differ for each person with asthma.
In general, asthma medications work in one of two ways to relieve symptoms. They either work by controlling or preventing the inflammation and mucous production or by relieving the muscle tightness around the airways.