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Baby Asthma – How to Identify and Treat Baby Breathing Problems

Main Types of Baby Asthma


If your child is wheezing or making a high pitched noise when exhaling this could be a sign that she has asthma. There are three main types of asthma in babies. The most avoidable type is that caused by exposure to cigarette smoke during pregnancy. Another form of baby asthma can be triggered by allergies. But the most usual cause of asthma is virus related. Higher pitched breathing and wheezing are quite common for babies under the age of two and usually as lungs and airways’s mature, these problems pass.


Baby asthma can be brought on due to inflammation of the respiratory system caused by infection. The wheezing that you hear is caused by a narrowing of the airways’s. The major airway to the lungs, the trachea, the back of the throat, the pharynx, the voice box, the larynx, ears, and nose can all be affected.


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Baby Asthma Caused by Passive Smoking


If you smoke during pregnancy there is a good chance that your child could have a reduced lung capacity and an increased sensitivity to viral infection. Continuing to smoke after your child has been born can also cause a detrimental changes in the lungs. Babies that are exposed to cigarette smoke are much more likely to develop wheezing brought on by viral infection. As the infant gets older these symptoms usually diminish. However, babies that have tobacco smoke induced asthma tend to have underdeveloped lungs in later life, especially if they are exposed to cigarette smoke while the the mother is pregnant.


baby asthma cat furBaby Asthma Caused by Allergies


Allergies can sometimes cause quite severe wheezing. If your baby has allergy induced asthma, you should look out for other symptoms as well such as eczema and food sensitivities. Allergens in the environment usually don’t affect children until at least nine months old. But there are cases where it can happen earlier. There are lots of causes of allergic asthma such as cat hair and house dust mites but it usually doesn’t start becoming apparent for several months following birth. So if your child is presenting with asthma symptoms in its first six months of life it is most likely not caused by an allergy.


It is not easy to tell the difference between asthma caused by allergies and asthma caused by viral infections. The wheezing and coughing are often very similar. But one indicator is that children who have asthma brought on by allergies usually take a lot longer to grow out of it than those with the viral induced breathing problems.


Baby Asthma Caused by a Viral Infection


25% of children under five are likely to have suffered from asthma brought on by viral infection. For some reason, boys are much more likely to suffer from this type of baby asthma than girls.


Viral infections can often cause a cold or a cough and associated wheezing. It is actually better if the baby contracts a viral infection at an earlier age than later on as their immune systems are able to outgrow the virus better at a younger age.


This wheezing brought on by viral infections can last for anything up to two months. It can disturb your baby’s sleep and coughing can get a lot worse at times especially when the child is unhappy or irritable. It often appears that your baby is just about recovering from the infection when all of a sudden it gets worse again. Lung infections such as bronchiolitis don’t tend to cause asthma but can produce wheezing in young children. The effects of these infections tend to subside once your child reaches five years of age. If you find that they persist beyond this age, it could be the case that your child has an allergy that is causing the asthmatic symptoms.


baby asthma no smokingTreatment of Baby Asthma


Prevention is always better than cure, so whatever you do, don’t smoke around your baby or subject them to places where people do smoke.


It has been found that breastfeeding can help reduce baby asthma. So try to make this a priority over bottle feeding.


Although rare, some babies can develop wheezing because of an allergy to certain foods, the most common being cow’s milk, peanuts, eggs and some types of seafood. Your health visitor may have discussed these foods with you by suggesting that you do not introduce them to your child’s diet until they are at least 12 months old.


If your little one is unfortunate enough to suffer with both asthma and eczema, then make sure she does not come into close contact with animal fur. Asthma caused by allergic reactions to cat and dog hair are among the most common types.


The most common type of baby asthma is that’s caused by a viral infections. You can never guarantee that your child will be free from colds and coughs but there are several things you can do to strengthen their immune systems and help them recover as soon as possible. Number one on the list is breastfeeding. This is effective against infection because the developing infant has the benefit of being strengthened by your own immune system transferred to it via the milk.


When to Call Your Doctor


Although no reason to panic, if any of the following symptoms are present it is always best to get medical help. Be sure to take your baby to hospital or a doctor if any of the following symptoms are present:


  • Excessive drowsiness, dribbling all the time and loss of appetite.
  • Severe lack of sleep brought on by night time coughing and wheezing.
  • Blood present in the phlegm and throwing up when coughing.
  • Extremely difficult breathing and associated changes in colour – lips turning blue.
  • Very wheezy and fast breathing to the point where the baby, if talking by now, finds it very difficult to do so.
  • If your baby is over two months old and has a temperature in excess of 39.5° C or 103.1° F.
  • If under two months old with a temperature over 38° C or 100.4° F.


Ongoing Care for Your Asthmatic Baby


Even though your child, when suffering with asthma brought on by cough and a cold may lose his appetite, it is still important to try and feed him. If he does not want to take a full meal, then just give him little spoonfuls every now and then and make sure that he is constantly hydrated as this will help to clear the airways.


It is true that cold air can cause coughing in babies if they already have sensitive airways. But you do not catch a cold from cold air. It is not good for them to be in a stuffy house all day long and so do try and take your baby outside even in cold weather – but just make sure to wrap him up warm.


Sometimes baby asthma is exacerbated by very dry air. If the house is centrally heated then the air inside can be extremely dry especially when the windows are kept closed. The use of a humidifier can help to get rid of a baby’s cough by a making the mucus in the airways less sticky. Vaporizers can also be used for the same effect.


The use of a vapour rub on a baby’s chest can help to clear his airways’s. If your baby is under three months don’t apply the rub directly to his skin but put it on his clothes instead.


Certain oils such as eucalyptus and albus may have beneficial effects if your baby’s breathing is strained. You can put a few drops in a candle fired vapouriser in the baby’s bedroom at night time.


Laying completely flat can actually make a cough much worse. During the night, to reduce coughing, try to elevate your baby’s head by a couple of inches so that the mucus and phlegm can drain from the nose and throat easier. Instead of laying your baby flat in a pram during the daytime, try and sit them up or carry them in a sling. This should also help to reduce asthmatic wheezing and coughing.


Medication for Baby Asthma


As stated before, the most common form of baby asthma is brought on by viral infections such as coughs and colds. Unfortunately these cannot be treated with antibiotics. However, if your doctor has ascertained that your baby has a bacterial infection then antibiotics can be prescribed.


Unless your doctor tells you to, don’t give your infant any type of cough mixture or cough suppressant. Coughing is nature’s way of clearing the passages. If you give your baby anything that prevents him from doing this naturally, the mucus will build up and the asthmatic conditions will only get worse.


If your baby’s asthma is associated with a high temperature and fever, then infant paracetamol can help to reduce the symptoms. Be sure to check the correct dosage and always seek medical advice.


If your baby’s nose is blocked then you might want to try using a saline nasal decongestant. These can be bought at pharmacists or be given on prescription by your doctor. They help to soften and increase the flow of mucus and also help to bring down inflammation of the airways. Other types of nasal decongestant contain drugs that are designed to reduce inflammation in the nasal passages. These are usually only available by prescription and are for babies over six months old. Your doctor will advise on their use as they can actually cause problems if used for more than 48 hours. Another type of treatment that your doctor can advise on is steroid based decongestants. You may be referred to a doctor that specializes in ear nose and throat conditions before these are prescribed.


Homoeopathic Treatments for Baby Asthma


If your baby’s breathing difficulties are coupled with a lot of coughing then there are several remedies that can be applied. For the specific doses it is best to check with a homoeopathic practitioner first, but usually doses will be 30c about three times every day over 72 hours.


Massage Treatment for Baby Asthma


The conditions associated with asthma can cause a lot of tenseness in the muscles as well as psychological discomfort. Babies love massage as much as grown-ups and you can do a lot to help your child by applying special oils in a sensitive way. This will not only physically loosen him up but also calm him down which will have a beneficial effect on the breathing.


Start by putting him on your lap and begin by massaging his cheeks, nose and face gently. Starting with the nose, as you massage down and to the sides of the face, imagine that you are helping to release tension in the nasal passages. We often instinctively do this to ourselves when we have a blocked nose and cold. Your baby should be set against your knees, facing you, in an approximately 45° upright position as you do this.


Another method that can help relieve the symptoms of baby asthma is to lay your him on his back and lightly massage his chest using a mixture of massage oil and a few drops of essential oils such as eucalyptus or lavender. These can help open up the air ways and clear the nasal passages.


Once you have massaged his chest for a while, you may want to lay him on his front and do the same type of massage on his back. This would help to loosen up the lungs and decrease tension in the bronchioles passages.