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Paediatric asthma 4


DISEASE: paediatric asthma

DEFINITION: paediatric asthma is a viral infection of the respiratory system that affects children below the age of three years and is characterized by wheezing during inspiration and expiration because of swelling and narrowing of the airways. The symptoms however disappear shortly after this age (O’Byrne & Paul, 2001).

AETIOLOGY: the exact cause of asthma is still unknown but it is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic factors and environmental triggers called allergens. People with allergies when exposed to allergens, their immune system overreact. In this case paediatric asthma is triggered by allergens such as animal hair, aspirin, cold weather, chemicals in food or air, dust, exercise, mold, pollen, strong emotions, tobacco smoke, viral infections such as common cold (Porth,2009).

PATHOGENESIS: asthma causes swelling and narrowing of the airways and therefore it becomes extremely difficult to breathe or talk. The body tissues are therefore deprived of oxygen and consequently the heart is forced to beat faster than it normally does. The constriction of the airways also causes the wheezing sounds during inspiration and exhalation (Lenhe & Hamilton 2010)

Structural changes: paediatric asthma causes substantial structural changes in the physical nature of the respiratory system. The fundamental change however is the swelling that results to narrowing of the bronchioles. There is also laboured and forceful breathing. The lubricating fluid in the bronchioles significantly reduces which causes intercostals and subcostal retractions (Naspitz, 2001).

Functional changes: a few functional changes are experienced in paediatric asthma including reduced mobility and missed school days in these children. They may also experience general body weakness, which may reduce their activeness. Patients may require aided breathing and anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce symptoms (Naspitz, 2001).

Clinical features: patients have trouble in breathing. At times, they have rapid or faster breathing. They may as well experience shortness of breath when they are even at rest. The chest muscles tighten and the pulse rate increases. There is also a wheezing sound during breathing and a general rise in oxygen saturation above normal rates. There may be sweating, increased anxiety and severe confusion and drowsiness (O’Byrne & Paul, 2001).

COURSE OF DISEASE: the disease initiates with mild symptoms that resemble those of a common cold; cough and running nose, and advances to higher levels characterized by wheezing, shortness of breath and increased heart rate. Upon commencement of medication, the patient recovers shortly with fall in the heart rate, regain of normal breathing pattern and normalization of oxygen saturation and full recovery within days (Jenkins, Kemnitz, & Tortora, 2010).

PROGNOSIS: paediatric asthma is the third major cause of hospitalization in children below the age of five years. The disease can be very fatal when left unattended and it is particularly so because the vulnerable population have much narrower airways that the adults (Naspitz, 2001)

DIAGNOSIS: the physician can detect wheezing sounds in the lungs using the stethoscope. X-ray may also be used to detect the inflammation of bronchioles. Sputum may be tested to detect any other microbial infections. Allergy and skin tests may also be used as a diagnostic tool. Arterial blood gas may be used to detect the oxygen saturation. Eosinophil count mat may used to tell a possible heightened immune response due to an allergen (Naspitz, 2001).

TREATMENT: treatment includes long-term medications that may be taken on a daily basis to avoid symptoms e.g. inhaled steroids that prevent airways from swelling, leukotriene inhibitors that help open airways. Rescue medications on the other hand are used to relieve symptoms e.g. short- acting bronciodilaters and corticosteroids that reduce the inflammation

PREVENTION: identifying allergens, which trigger the disease, is the first step in prevention. Ensure that the child is prevented from contact with the allergen is important. Flu shots are an essential health control strategy that plays a significant role in prevention of asthma attach. Immunotherapy can help reduce asthma attach in people who are allergic to air borne allergens (O’Byrne & Paul 2001).


Australian Nursing and Midwifery Council. (2006).National Competency Standards for the

Registered Nurse. Retrieved from


Jenkins, G.W., Kemnitz, C.P., & Tortora, G.J. (2010). Anatomy and Physiology from Science

to Life. New Jersey: Wiley.

Lenhe, R.A., & Hamilton, D. (2010). Pharmacology for Nursing Care.

Philadelphia: Lippincott

Naspitz ,C. K. (2001). Textbook of Paediatric Asthma: An International Perspective.

London: Informa Healthcare

O’Bryne, N.C. & Paul, M. (2001). Manual of Asthma Management. Michigan:

W.B. Saunders

Porth, C.M (2009). Pathophysiology: Concept of Altered Health States. Philadelphia: