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Angela Oswalt Morelli , MSW, edited by Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Some environmentally-sensitive children develop Asthma, a medical condition in which the airways (e.g., the passages in the lungs through which air circulates) become inflamed and constricted in response to a trigger (e.g., an allergen, exercise, cold, extreme stress, or an intense emotional reaction). As their airways constrict, it becomes harder for children to breath. Children having an asthma attack may struggle to fully inhale a breath and may make wheezing sounds when they exhale. Children may panic when their breathing becomes restricted, which worsens the condition.

girl breathingThe airway constriction characteristic of mild and moderate Asthma can be addressed with prescription medications that relax the airways, making it easier for children to breath again. These medications are usually inhaled, and may be carried around in cartridge-based inhaler form, or administered with the assistance of a nebulizer.

Children with asthma or severe allergies should always have ready access to their medications whether they are at home or school. Schools have varying policies concerning the possession or use of prescription medications on school grounds. In some schools, children may keep such medications on their person, while in others, medication must be stored in the nurse's office or with school administrators. Parents should check with their children's school regarding their policies so that children can conform to them.

A severe Asthma attack can become life threatening if symptoms and breathing difficulties are not brought under control. If an Asthma attack ever becomes severe enough that medication fails to sufficiently reduce symptoms, or breathing becomes extremely labored, or if a child's lips become blue, caregivers should immediately consult with a medical doctor or local hospital.

An Asthma attack involves a child experiencing the sensation of suffocation. As such it can be an extremely frightening experience to have, and may induce a panic reaction and associated anxiety. To the extent these psychological symptoms occur, they make the experience of Asthma far worse than it otherwise would be. The medications used to treat the physical symptoms of Asthma do not help such psychological symptoms. Parents can help to reduce the chances that children will panic during an Asthma attack by themselves remaining calm while it occurs, and by educating children about the condition. In particular, if children know what to do to reduce their symptoms, and how to help reduce the chance that they will reoccur, they will be less likely to panic.