Clinical Services

Asthma Program

Asthma is a chronic inflammation of the airways. When the child is exposed to an irritant that triggers an airway reaction, the airways overreact, quickly becoming swollen and inflamed. Muscles surrounding the airways tighten, and mucus production increases. As a result, the airways become narrow, and breathing becomes difficult. Irritants that cause asthma are often substances that cause allergic responses, but can be common exposures such as viral infections, cold temperature, cigarette smoke and exercise.

Symptoms

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath often while exercising or playing
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Fatigue
  • Nighttime cough
  • Noisy breathing

Asthma commonly occurs in children under age 5 with a family history of asthma or exposure to secondhand smoke. The child may also have allergies to certain foods.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The diagnosis of asthma is confirmed by laboratory breathing tests (so called pulmonary function test). Pulmonary function tests are a measure of lung health, particularly how open the airways are. Very young children cannot perform the test, but children ages 5 and up are often able to blow in a tube or breathe deeply. Children often find the tests entertaining to do.

Because infants cannot perform the required breathing exercises on command, they require special equipment to measure lung function. The UM Division of Pulmonology is one of only 20 sites in the country with the facilities to perform these tests, which include, airway oscillation measurements, and systems to determine exhaled nitric oxide (NO) which monitors the presence and severity of airway inflammation. Infants are gently sedated in order to help them relax and sleep through the tests, which take less than one hour and do not cause any discomfort. Chest x-rays and blood tests are sometimes used in the diagnosis of asthma as well.

Proper management of asthma is very important for a good quality of life, good exercise tolerance, and undisturbed sleep and play. It can also prevent severe breathing problems that require hospitalization and may be life-threatening. Proper management includes identifying and avoiding asthma triggers, taking prescribed medications regularly and properly, being aware of warning signs of an asthma attack, and knowing what to do during an attack. UM pediatric pulmonologists help children and their parents learn these measures so they can lead a normal life.

Contact us

For additional information or to make an appointment, please call 305-243-6641.