Asthma is a chronic disease that causes the airways to swell and get narrow. While asthma affects people of all ages, it most often starts in childhood — and is the most common noncommunicable disease among children.
Asthma may appear at any age, but the majority of children with asthma develop symptoms by age 4 or 5. Children with asthma face unique challenges. For some, unmanaged asthma can cause dangerous asthma attacks and long-lasting lung problems. Pediatric asthma is the leading cause of missed school days, emergency department visits, and hospitalizations for children.
The underlying causes of asthma are not fully understood. We do know that pediatric asthma often occurs with allergies. Also, many factors can trigger an asthma attack, including allergens (e.g., airborne pollen), viruses, infections, and exposure to airway irritants (e.g., pets, tobacco smoke). Some children have symptoms only when exercising or playing a sport (exercise-induced asthma).
Asthma signs and symptoms vary from child to child, and may get worse or better over time. Some symptoms of pediatric asthma include:
- Frequent, intermittent coughing
- Shortness of breath, rapid or labored breathing
- Chest tightness, congestion or pain
- Difficulty sleeping
Some early warning signs that your child may be at risk for developing asthma may include: eczema starting in the early months, frequent lower respiratory symptoms in the first year, and a family history of asthma.
Asthma diagnosis and treatment
Asthma in children can be difficult to diagnose. This is because a number of childhood conditions have symptoms similar to those caused by asthma, or can commonly co-occur with asthma. For example, wheezing and other asthma-like symptoms may be caused by infectious bronchitis or another respiratory problem. Doctors must rule out if symptoms are caused by asthma alone, another condition, or both.
Although pediatric asthma can’t be cured, with the right treatment, it can be controlled. Early diagnosis and proper treatment is essential in order to prevent disruptions in daily activities, damage to growing lungs, and dangerous or life-threatening asthma attacks.
Doctors may use the following tests to diagnose asthma:
- Allergy testing
- Lung function tests (spirometry) to measure how quickly and how much air your child can exhale (for children older than 6)
- Chest X-ray
- Blood tests
The goal of treatment for pediatric asthma is to control the disease and prevent attacks. Depending on your child’s age, symptoms and asthma triggers, treatment may include:
- Long-term control medications – to reduce airway inflammation and prevent asthma symptoms
- Quick-relief medications – to quickly control asthma symptoms that are limiting breathing
- Treatment for allergy-induced asthma if your child's asthma is triggered or worsened by allergies
How we can help
If you know or suspect your child has asthma, our pediatric experts — including board-certified pediatric allergists and pulmonologists — will partner with you to get the disease under control so your child can live a normal, active life.
We’ll begin with a thorough evaluation and assessment to get a detailed description of your child’s symptoms and health. Then, we’ll work with you to develop your child’s personalized asthma treatment plan.
The plan will track your child’s level of asthma control and help prevent and treat asthma attacks. As time goes on, we’ll carefully monitor your child to determine how well the plan is working and make any adjustments as needed.
Every child has different and specific asthma triggers. We’ll help identify what makes your child’s asthma worse, and work with you to reduce asthma triggers. We’ll also educate you on how to identify signs of an asthma attack and the steps to take if it occurs.
Asthma-related emergency care
No matter what level of care your child needs for an asthma attack, we can deliver it. Our emergency departments in Naperville, Plainfield and Elmhurst — each state-recognized as an Emergency Department Approved for Pediatrics (EDAP) — provide specialized care for our youngest patients in a calming, child-friendly environment.
Should your child require admission to the hospital, our Naperville campus has inpatient services for asthma, supported by a pediatric intensive care unit staffed by subspecialty pediatricians trained to care for critically ill children.
Hospitalist pediatricians can be at your child's bedside 24/7 to provide up-to-the-minute care. Pediatric pulmonologists, surgeons and infectious disease specialists are also available to see your child in the hospital. Additionally, child life specialists are available to help your child feel comfortable, and hopefully make things easier on you as well.
Find an expert
Find a pediatric allergist
Find a pediatric pulmonologist
A concussion is a brain injury that occurs when the head is struck or suddenly jarred. Concussions more often occur in collision sports and in contact sports that don’t require helmets. As many as 3.8 million sports- and recreation-related concussions happen each year in the U.S. (Centers for Disease Control). About half of these injuries go undiagnosed and untreated, putting the person at risk for more severe brain injury.
Concussions aren’t limited to sports only. A concussion may result from a car accident or something as simple as a child falling off a bike and hitting her head on the sidewalk.
As a parent, it’s important to be aware of how to prevent concussions or minimize the impact of a concussion if it does happen. Most importantly, never ignore a head injury, no matter how minor. Call your doctor for advice.
The symptoms of a concussion range from subtle to obvious, and symptoms may not occur until several hours after the episode.
Concussion symptoms can include any of the following:
- Balance problems, dizziness
- Nausea, vomiting
- Blurry vision
- Sensitivity to noise and light
- Trouble concentrating
- Changes in behavior (agitation, grogginess, disorientation)
1 in 10 people will lose consciousness with a concussion. Anyone with the following symptoms after a head injury should seek emergency medical care: loss of consciousness, repeated vomiting, lack of coordination, seizures, or any symptoms that worsen over time (like increasing headache, nausea or dizziness).
Concussion diagnosis and treatment
All concussions are serious. Doctors can diagnose a concussion and determine the need for any tests. Treatment for a pediatric concussion usually consists of complete rest from all physical and mental activity.
Children should be monitored often, and loud music, TV or computer should be limited or stopped if symptoms increase. Students usually need to be excused from P.E. class and recess. Many young athletes will need to suspend all sports activity until symptoms have completely resolved at rest, and only upon doctor’s orders. Returning to sports activity too early after a concussion can lead to another concussion or even death.
Not all concussions can be prevented, but some may be avoided with proper fitting helmets and safe playing techniques.
How we can help
If you know or suspect your child has a concussion, our pediatric experts will partner with you to help your child recover. Here, you have access to specialists in pediatric concussions, including board-certified pediatric neurologists and pediatric sports medicine physicians.
At our pediatric concussion clinic, we’ll begin with a thorough assessment to determine if your child has a concussion. A diagnosis often consists of a physical exam and questionnaires measuring your child’s symptoms. The sports medicine clinic offers athletes pre-participation ImPACT testing; these tests can help to measure the severity of a concussion and track recovery should your child become injured.
If your child has a concussion, we’ll work with you to develop a personalized recovery plan. The plan will likely consist of an individualized prescription for mental and physical rest. We’ll pay close attention to worsening symptoms or any concussion-related symptoms that return with exertion, which means that the concussion has not healed.
Your doctor’s recommendation about when your child may return to sports or other activities is based on the severity of the injury, the duration of symptoms and any history of concussions.
Emergency care for concussions
No matter what level of care your child needs for a concussion, we can deliver it. Our emergency departments in Naperville, Plainfield and Elmhurst — each state-recognized as an Emergency Department Approved for Pediatrics (EDAP) — provide specialized care for our youngest patients in a calming, child-friendly environment.
Board-certified pediatricians are in the hospital 24/7 to provide up-to-the-minute care for your child, along with your pediatrician. Additionally, there are specialists on staff like pediatric neurologists that can see your child in the hospital. Child life specialists are also available to help your child feel comfortable, and hopefully make things easier on you as well.
Find an expert
Find a pediatric sports medicine physician
Find a pediatric neurologist