We all know about asthma attacks in adults but very few of us are aware of baby asthma. Yes, small babies can develop asthma too at this early age. The exact cause is not clearly known. However, it is believed that exposure to allergens like dust, smoke, pollen or pet dander are the key causes of asthma in babies and small children. In some babies, it can be triggered by genetic condition or some physical impairment. Basically, asthma is a respiratory disorder that causes breathing difficulty. It occurs when the air passage gets irritated and inflammation occurs. As a result, the passage becomes narrow and normal breathing gets affected. This causes lack of oxygen in the body. If it continues for a long time, then the body is deprived of oxygen and can lead to damage of vital organs of the body.
Asthma Symptoms in Babies
The symptoms of asthma in babies are more or less similar to that of adults. However, as the airway is smaller in babies their intensity is much more severe. Some of the key identifiable symptoms are given below:
Breathing Difficulty: As the nasal passage gets constricted, the child struggles hard to maintain the normal breath. It is usually more visible when the baby is crying or doing activities like crawling. The duration of gasping could vary from a few seconds to few minutes. In a serious asthma attack, it may lead to shallow rapid breathing.
Wheezing: This is a typical whistling sound that can be heard every time the baby breathes in and breathes out. This clearly suggests that the air passage has narrowed down and only a small amount of air can pass through it.
Cough: A chronic cough which could be dry or wet. They may cough occasionally throughout the day but it may worsen during the night. Laughing or crawling may also trigger it. This cough may be accompanied by other allergy symptoms such as sneezing, watery eyes and nasal discharge.
Tightness in Chest: As there is less amount of air available in the lungs, the baby tries to put extra efforts for breathing in more air. This often results in chest tightness.
Allergic Rashes When tiny, red skin rashes appear on various parts of their body like cheeks, forehead and scalp, along with other asthma symptoms then it clearly suggests that he or she was exposed to some kind of allergens which is causing the attack.
Spasms: Infantile spasm is quite commonly associated with baby asthma. It can be described as contraction of one or more muscle groups of the body for a short period of time. If it is a severe spasm that lasts for several minutes, then the baby should be rushed to the hospital.
There are some serious symptoms that require emergency medical intervention. They are as follows:
- Rapid breathing
- Widening of the nostrils
- Retraction or drawing in of the stomach towards the ribs
- Paleness in face
- Bluish discoloration of lips and nails
The moment you suspect that your little child has developed asthma, you should consult your pediatrician for further treatment. They diagnose baby asthma by studying the symptoms, medical history and family history of the child. The main aim of the treatment is to help the baby deal with the asthma attack. Doctors prescribe suitable medicines, which when administered to the baby at the onset of the symptoms, can stop the attack. These medicines act quickly and provide relief from the spasms inside the air passage. It enables the baby to breathe easily. There is a device called metered-dose inhaler (or MDI) which is being used for administering the medicines directly into the airway. It consists of a small aerosol can which has to be inserted into a long tube with a small mask called spacer. The mask is placed on the baby’s face and the medicine is sprayed into the spacer which the baby inhales while breathing through the mask.
If your baby tends to get asthma attacks frequently, you must take steps to prevent any such attacks in future. Identify the allergen or the condition that causes the attack. Some babies get it when they are infected by common cold. Others may get it on exposure to dust or tobacco smoke. Once it is identified, try to make every effort to ensure that your baby is not exposed to that particular allergen.