Asthma is one of the most chronic serious diseases in children and adolescents, affecting nearly nine million children under the age of 18. Fifty to 80% of children with asthma develop the symptoms of asthma before the age of 5. Children suffering from asthma also miss more than 10 million school days each year due to complications of the disease. Asthma symptoms can result in poor academic performance, anxiety and further isolation from peers if not properly managed. Asthma occurs when the main air passages of the lungs, the bronchial tubes, become inflamed. The muscles of the bronchial walls tighten and extra mucus is produced, causing the airways to narrow. The result could range from frequent wheezing with a cough to severe difficulty in breathing. In some cases, breathing may be so labored, that an asthma attack becomes life-threatening.
The most common form of asthma among children is allergic asthma. In this form, otherwise harmless allergens, such as dust mites, cat and dog dander or other environmental allergens, can trigger an asthma attack. In addition to allergy symptoms brought on by exposure to these allergens – watery eyes, sneezing and itching – asthmatics can experience severe airway constriction. If left untreated, the disease can escalate to dangerous proportions, even resulting in trips to the emergency room to restore normal breathing.
Asthma also can have a non-allergic component and be triggered by cold, polluted air or exercise. The variety of triggers, both allergic and non-allergic, that surround us makes asthma nearly a universal risk for millions of people.