Asthma and Children

Learn from Pediatric Pulmonologist Dr. Cadence Kuklinski what types of asthma she treats and typical signs of asthma children might have.

What are the common types of asthma that you treat?

Asthma is a very interesting disorder. We use the term asthma to cover a lot of different things. A lot of different triggers cause similar symptoms in children. Sometimes people’s asthma can be triggered by pollen. Sometimes people are more triggered by viral infections or airway irritants. Those are probably the most common things that trigger people’s asthma. Then, we use similar medications regardless of what the trigger is to help control their symptoms better.

What is exercise-induced asthma?

Typically, I see a couple of kids every week who are coming in to be evaluated for exercise-induced asthma. Those patients quite frequently tend to only have symptoms when they are exercising. We treat that slightly differently than we do other types of asthma. It’s less responsive to the type of controller medicines we use to help prevent symptoms in kids who are more triggered by viruses or pollens.

How do you help patients manage and treat asthma?

Part of our initial evaluation with any patient who we suspect might have asthma involves a thorough history. Depending on the child’s age, we may do pulmonary function testing. That’s something that we’re not able to do typically in little children like toddlers, but you can do it in patients ages 4-5 and up. That helps us get an idea of how well air is flowing through their lungs. We do that as part of their clinic visit. We also often will do allergy testing as part of the visit to help us figure out what allergens might be triggering a patient’s asthma. Our goal for all of our patients with asthma is to live completely normal lives. We would like for them to function as though they have no asthma symptoms, and we titrate our medicines to help us get there. Some patients can get by with just using a medicine as needed, like when they have a cold or when they’re exposed to the allergen that causes problems with their asthma. That’s typically albuterol. Other children need a medicine or multiple medicines that they take every day to help keep those symptoms under control. Our main goal is always to control the symptoms as well as we can on the least amount of medication possible.

What are typical signs that a child may have asthma and require treatment?

One of the things that parents notice most often is that when one of their children gets a cold that it lasts longer than either their siblings or than their friends at school. They’ll be coughing much longer. Their cough is harsher, and they often also seem sort of short of breath with that cough. It’s not just a cough, and then they go about their business. They’re coughing and also working a little bit heavier to breathe. That’s usually the first sign that parents will notice and take their child to the doctor for.