Childhood Asthma


asthma (ăz´mə, ăs´–), chronic inflammatory respiratory disease characterized by periodic attacks of wheezing, shortness of breath, and a tight feeling in the chest. A cough producing sticky mucus is symptomatic. The symptoms often appear to be caused by the body's reaction to a trigger such as an allergen (commonly pollen, house dust, animal dander: see allergy), certain drugs, an irritant (such as cigarette smoke or workplace chemicals), exercise, or emotional stress. These triggers can cause the asthmatic's lungs to release chemicals that create inflammation of the bronchial lining, constriction, and bronchial spasms. If the effect on the bronchi becomes severe enough to impede exhalation, carbon dioxide can build up in the lungs and lead to unconsciousness and death. Following a steady 30-year decline, asthma deaths in the United States, especially among poor, inner-city blacks and among the elderly, began to rise from the late 1970s through the early 1990s. At the same time, the incidence of asthma also increased, both nationally and worldwide.

There is no cure for asthma. Although the disease may go through a period of quiescence, it appears that childhood asthmatics do not outgrow the disease as previously believed. Treatment includes inhaled or oral steroids or bronchodilators (albuterol, theophylline), breathing exercises, and, if possible, the identification and avoidance of triggers.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Improving Childhood Asthma Outcomes in the United States: A Blueprint for Policy Action
Marielena Lara; Will Nicholas; Sally Morton; Mary E. Vaiana; Barbara Genovese; Gary Rachelefsky; Stephen Redd; Kevin Weiss.
Rand, 2001
All about Asthma: Stop Suffering and Start Living
Irwin J. Polk.
Insight Books, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 13 "Asthma in Children"
Measuring Health-Related Quality of Life in Children and Adolescents: Implications for Research and Practice
Dennis Drotar.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 10 "Why Not Just Ask the Kids? Health-Related Quality of Life in Children With Asthma"
Coping with Childhood Asthma: Caretakers' Views
Mailick, Mildred D.; Holden, Gary; Walther, Virginia N.
Health and Social Work, Vol. 19, No. 2, May 1994
Promoting Adherence to Medical Treatment in Chronic Childhood Illness: Concepts, Methods, and Interventions
Dennis Drotar.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "Measurement of Treatment Nonadherence in Children With Asthma"
The Value of the Chest X-Ray in Making the Diagnosis of Bronchial Asthma
Rubenstein, Howard S.; Rosner, Bernard A.; LeMay, Marjorie; Neidorf, Rhoda.
Adolescence, Vol. 28, No. 111, Fall 1993
Low-Level Ozone, Particulate Matter, and Children with Asthma
Phelps, Jerry.
Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 112, No. 2, February 2004
Asthma Symptoms in Hispanic Children and Daily Ambient Exposures to Toxic and Criteria Air Pollutants. (Children's Health)
Delfino, Ralph J.; Gong, Henry, Jr.; Linn, William S.; Pellizzari, Edo D.; Hu, Ye.
Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 111, No. 4, April 2003
Environmental Tobacco Smoke, Parental Atopy, and Childhood Asthma
Jaakkola, Jouni J. K.; Nafstad, Per; Magnus, Per.
Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 109, No. 6, June 2001
Home and Allergic Characteristics of Children with Asthma in Seven U.S. Urban Communities and Design of an Environmental Intervention: The Inner-City Asthma Study. (Children's Health Articles)
Crain, Ellen F.; Walter, Michelle; O'Connor, George T.; Mitchell, Herman; Gruchalla, Rebecca S.; Kattan, Meyer; Malindzak, George S.; Enright, Paul; Evans, Richard,, III; Morgan, Wayne; Stout, James W.
Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 110, No. 9, September 2002
The Influence of Ambient Coarse Particulate Matter on Asthma Hospitalization in Children: Case-Crossover and Time-Series Analyses. (Children's Health Articles)
Lin, Mei; Chen, Yue; Burnett, Richard T.; Villeneuve, Paul J.; Krewski, Daniel.
Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 110, No. 6, June 2002
Asthma: Stop Suffering, Start Living
M. Eric Gershwin; E. L. Klingelhofer.
Perseus Books, 1992 (2nd edition)
Developmental Aspects of Health Compliance Behavior
Norman A. Krasnegor; Leonard Epstein; Suzanne Bennett Johnson; Sumner J. Yaffe.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1993
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 13 "Medication Compliance and Childhood Asthma"
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