Guide to Asthma in newborns

This article explains asthma in newborns, what is the difference between asthma in young children and adults, how is asthma treated in young children, what can be done to reduce the symptoms of asthma, Tips for parents and much more.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a disease that blocks and severely narrows the airways. This is usually a temporary phenomenon, but it provokes shortness of breath, trouble breathing and other symptoms. If an asthma attack is severe, then a person may need to be hospitalized.

About 15 million people worldwide suffer from asthma, including five million children under the age of 18. Asthma is affected by people of all ages, gender and races. Millions of dollars are spent on treatment each year.

Despite the large amount of information about asthma, much about what causes it and how it will prevent, remains unknown. Although asthma causes serious health problems, but in most cases, treatment helps control asthma and allows a person to live a normal and fulfilling life.

What causes asthma attacks?

Substances in the environment provoke an asthma attack. Pathogens may be different for every person, but the most common are cold air, physical exercises, allergens (substances that cause allergies) such as dust mites, mold, pollen, animal hair or the products of cockroaches and some types of viral infections.

When you breathe in, air gets through your nose and / or your mouth into a tube called a trachea (sometimes called the “windpipe”). After the trachea air stumbles on a series of small tubes, on which the trachea branches. These branches are called bronchi and they are divided into even smaller tubes, bronchioles. It is the bronchi and bronchioles that asthma affects most.

This is how this process happens. When the respiratory tract contacts the allergen, the tissues inside the bronchus and bronchioles become inflamed (inflammatory processes begin). At the same time, the muscle tissues surrounding the respiratory tract begin to contract strongly, thereby narrowing the pathways. Dense liquid (mucus) enters the swollen airways. The breathing passages are so narrow that breathing is impossible.

Why are newborns and small children more susceptible to asthma?

The described process can proceed normally up to a certain point. The respiratory tract of any person will begin to contract in response to irritating substances, for example, dust or mold. But asthmatics have a particularly sensitive airway. This means that the respiratory tract reacts to substances that are not even noticeable to people without asthma.

To describe the action of asthma, some doctors use the term “irritated respiratory tract”. This is a good term, clearly showing how the asthmatic airways differ from the airways of people who do not suffer from this disease. But not all people who have hypersensitive airways have symptoms of asthma.

Asthma in newborns
Asthma in newborns

It is still unknown what causes asthma symptoms in people. Studies have shown that a hereditary predisposition to asthma or allergies, a particular allergy in a child and cigarette smoke during pregnancy can increase the likelihood of developing asthma at an early age.

The most common cause of exacerbation of asthma symptoms in children under 5 years and younger is respiratory infection. Although both children and adults are ill with respiratory diseases, but children are still more and, in addition, children of preschool age are often given to epidemics of respiratory infections. At least half of the children-asmatics showed signs of asthma up to 5 years. Viruses – the most common cause of acute episodes of asthma in newborns to six months or less.

What is the difference between asthma in young children and adults?

In newborns, bronchial tubes are much smaller than in older children and adults.

Is it asthma?

Symptoms of asthma can be similar to the symptoms of other diseases. Bronchitis,cerebrospinal fluid (acute laryngitis or laryngotracheitis, accompanied by spasmodic stenosis of the larynx), cystic fibrosis, pneumonia, bronchiectasis, upper respiratory tract viruses, gastroesophageal reflux, congenital anomalies or even a foreign body entry into the respiratory tract – all have similar symptoms.

Symptoms of asthma in a child:

  • Noisy breathing or rapid breathing, 50% more often than with normal breathing.
  • Normal breathing rate:
    • At newborns 30-60 breaths / minute
    • One-year-olds have 20-40 breaths / minute
    • Two-year-olds have 20-30 breaths / minute
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath during usual actions
  • Lethargy, lack of interest in ordinary or favorite actions
  • Difficulty sucking or eating
  • Changing the sound of crying, the sound is softer

Parents may not realize that the symptoms of asthma can become serious and even lead to the need for hospitalization. If a child develops at least one of the following symptoms, seek medical help immediately:

  • Breathing is 50% more common than usual.
  • Difficulties in sucking or eating food, which leads to a refusal to eat.
  • Cyanosis – a very pale or cyanotic complexion, lips, fingertips.
  • Fast movements of nostrils.
  • Noticeable movement of the chest or abdomen (deep and rapid movements).
  • An enlarged thorax, which practically does not descend when exhaled.
  • The child does not respond or does not react to the parents.

How is asthma diagnosed in newborns and in young children?

Diagnosis of asthma in young children is very difficult. Since they do not know how to talk, they can not describe what they feel. Changing the behavior of a child can mean a lot of things; nevertheless, most young children and preschool children remain active despite chest tightness or shortness of breath.

To help the pediatrician make an accurate diagnosis, parents can provide information about a hereditary predisposition to asthma or allergies, about the child’s general behavior, about his breathing and reaction to food or possible pathogens. The test of pulmonary functions (often used to determine the exact diagnosis) is very difficult to carry out on children. Instead, pediatricians look at how a child reacts to medications that improve breathing. For more information about the child’s health, a blood test, allergy tests and chest x-ray are done.

Due to this information the doctor can make a more or less accurate diagnosis. The doctor can refer parents to an allergist or pulmonologist (a doctor, specialize in lung diseases) for specific tests and treatment.



How is asthma treated in young children?

Newborns and small children can take the same medications as older children and adults. Of course, the dose of medicines is much smaller and the methods of taking medicines differ. Inhaled drugs are preferred, since they act faster and have fewer side effects.

Preparations for the treatment of asthma symptoms for newborns and young children usually go in the form of a tasty syrup or are taken through an aerosol. Aerosol (sometimes referred to as a “breathing machine”) is a small drug that pushes air in the form of “droplets of medication” so that the child can inhale the medicine through a special mask worn on the face. The procedure takes no more than 10 minutes and is repeated several times a day daily. Although aerosol treatment is rather mild, children are often frightened of the mask and the procedure itself for the first time.

Asthma in newborns
Asthma in newborns

Some small children can use an inhaler with a separator or mask. The separator is a small tube or “aerotube” that holds the medicine released from the inhaler. The inhaler / separator device allows children to inhale the medicine at a speed that is convenient for them.

Various medications are used to treat asthma. Bronchodilators are quick-acting medications that quickly expose the respiratory tract, making breathing easier. Long-acting drugs, such as corticosteroids or cromolyn sodium, help to keep asthma symptoms from exacerbation. Most asthmatics, including children, use a combination of drugs depending on the severity and frequency of the symptoms. Consult your doctor and make a treatment program for your child.

What can be done to reduce the symptoms of asthma?

Control the symptoms of asthma by controlling the pathogens that are in the environment of the child. Pay special attention to the bedroom where the child spends 12-18 hours a day. Pack the pillows, mattresses and blankets in hypoallergenic covers. Weekly wash bed linen in hot water. Carpets should be washable. Buy only washable plush toys. Every week or even more often vacuum. Do not let the animals enter the bedroom / house. Do not allow smoking in the house (even if someone smokes in the basement of a multi-storey building, smoke spreads through the ventilation openings all around the house.) Highly efficient filters should be built into the cleaning devices (only if the child is sensitive to animal wool and the animal is in the house).

There is evidence that breastfeeding helps to avoid the development of eczema and food allergies, but does not reduce the risk of developing asthma. In addition, if you have a family predisposition to allergies or you think that the child is allergic, add new foods to the baby’s diet and observe its reaction. Be especially careful with products that are powerful allergens: nut-containing foods (eg, walnut oil), dairy products, soy, fish, seafood, cereals and eggs. Carefully read the labels on the products (the product may include some hidden element).


Can a child “develop” asthma?

Approximately 50% of children “outgrow” asthma. But if someone has sensitive airways, then they remain so for life, although the symptoms of asthma can change throughout life. If the child’s airways are fully developed, then they are able to cope with the inflammation and irritants and accordingly the symptoms of asthma can be markedly reduced. In half of these children, the symptoms of asthma can resume to varying degrees at the age of 30 or 40 years.

The way to predict which of the children symptoms will disappear with age, no. New pathogens can awaken the symptoms at any time. If your child has asthma, then keep fast-acting medications at hand, even if the symptoms are extremely rare.

Tips for parents

When a young child has a chronic illness, parents can feel tense, trying to do their best. We offer you some tips:

  • Learn to recognize the slightest signs of impending symptoms in newborns and young children. You need to know the features of your child’s symptoms.
  • Together with your child’s pediatrician, you need to develop a treatment program. Make sure that the instructions in the program describe how to proceed with worsening of symptoms. It is necessary to understand when the child needs urgent medical help.
  • Follow the instructions of the treatment program daily! Do not deviate from the program without the permission of a doctor. If the symptoms have disappeared, continue to follow the program until you consult a doctor.
  • Continually go to the examinations (this will reduce your anxiety).
  • Teach your child to tell you when he begins to feel bad.
  • Develop an emergency program for cases when a child has a serious asthma attack. Which hospital do you go to? (Make sure your attending physician works in this hospital and the address and phone numbers are in the treatment program.) Who take care of your other children?

In addition to the above, do not let asthma become the main thing in your relationship with the child! If you have a good doctor and you follow all of his instructions, asthma will less remind you of yourself and you will be able to spend more time with your child!

Guide to Asthma in newborns
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