Pediatric Asthma Fact Sheet

What is asthma?

• A chronic inflammatory condition of the lungs that can lead to breathing problems known as asthma attacks (episodes) – a series of events that result in narrowed airways, causing difficulty breathing and the familiar wheeze often associated with the disease.1b

• A reversible, obstructive lung disease characterized by excessive sensitivity or increased reactivity of the airways of the lungs, to any number of different environmental stimuli.

• A disease that, if not properly managed, can be life-threatening.1c

What causes an asthma attack?

Triggers range from respiratory infections to allergic reactions to airborne irritants. Other triggers may include certain foods, exposure to cold air or a sudden change in temperature, exercise, many household and industrial products, scents, or excitement or stress. Each person reacts differently to these factors.

Examples of airborne irritants include1h:

• Pollen

• Molds

• Animal dander

• Feathers

• Dust mites

• Cigarette smoke

• Air pollutants

Does asthma affect children?

Asthma is the leading cause of chronic illness among children.1e In 2003, approximately 6.2 million children under the age of 18 were diagnosed with asthma; of these, 4 million suffered an actual asthma attack or episode.1d Up to 80 percent of children with asthma demonstrated symptoms before age five.2 Asthma accounted for 12.8 million lost school days in 2003, making it the leading cause of school absenteeism attributable to chronic conditions. 1f

Is pediatric asthma a serious problem?

• Most children have mild to moderate asthma, which can be controlled by treatment at home or in the doctor’s office.2 Yet for some children, the illness becomes a formidable burden that results in emergency-room visits and hospitalizations. 3 In fact, asthma is the third leading cause of hospitalization among children under the age of 15. 1g

What are the symptoms of an asthma attack in children?

During an asthma attack, children may have difficulty breathing or begin to breathe very fast. This may or may not be associated with exercise. They may feel short of breath, even at rest.6a Although children may seem symptom-free for long periods of time, they can experience acute (sudden onset) or intermittent attacks. Other symptoms may include the following:

• Coughing

• Wheezing or whistling

• Chest tightness.7

What happens to children during an asthma attack?

The lining of the airways become inflamed and swollen, and there is an increase in mucus production. Also, the muscles of the airways become inflamed. As a result, the air passages in the lungs become narrower and breathing becomes more difficult.

How is asthma treated?

Most people with asthma take 2 kinds of medicines. One is a controller medicine. This stops the airways from reacting to asthma triggers and helps control inflammation, so patients are able to breathe better. Controller medicines work only if taken everyday, as prescribed by a physician.9a

Another kind of asthma medicine is a quick-relief, or rescue, medicine (also known as bronchodilator). These medicines, which are inhaled, dilate, or open, the airways to make it easier to breathe. Bronchodilators should only be used for quick relief of symptoms of an attack.9b

To provide the best care for your child with asthma, know the symptoms and triggers of asthma, understand how to control an asthma attack, and work closely with your child’s doctor to develop a health plan designed specifically for your child.

This information is provided by AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP, makers of PULMICORT RESPULES® (budesonide inhalation suspension). For more information on the symptoms and triggers of asthma, as well as potential treatment options, parents can . For more information about AstraZeneca, please


1. American Lung Association. Asthma and Children Fact Sheet. Available  Accessed 1/17/06

2. Kemp JP, Kemp JA. Management of Asthma in Children. Am Fam Phys. 2001;63: 1341-8, 1353-4

3. Childhood Asthma Initiative (California Department of Health Services). Asthma program manual: A comprehensive guide to planning a program for prevention and treatment of asthma in children under five

4. National Center for Health Statistics. Asthma Prevalence, health care use, and mortality, 2002. Available at:  accessed 1/17/06 Accessed 1/17/06

5. American Lung Association. Asthma and African Americans. Available  Accessed 1/17/06

6. Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia. Pediatric Asthma. Available at: Accessed 1/17/06

7. American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. What is Asthma? How can you tell if your child may have it? Available  Accessed 1/17/06

8. Children’s Hospital Boston. My child has asthma. Available at  Accessed 1/17/06 Asthma: controller and quick-relief medicine. Available  accessed 1/17/06


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