Community Pediatric Asthma Service

FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

You have questions?  We have answers!  Our team of Certified Respiratory Educators in Calgary have pulled together the most common questions they get asked. Take a look below to see if your question has been answered and if not...we are only a click away.

Does my child have asthma?


No, not yet, but asthma can usually be well controlled by avoiding asthma triggers and by using medicine.

Anyone that uses a metered-dose inhaler (MDI aka "puffer") should always use a spacer.  A spacer helps more medicine reach your lungs. 

If you won't use a spacer, you should talk to your doctor about getting a different asthma device.  Dry powder inhalers do not require spacers. 

You should ask your pharmacist, your doctor, or your asthma educator to review your device technique every time you see them. It is harder to be good at taking your medicine than you might think. Consider limiting your asthma devices to the same type of device so that you can become really good at one technique.

We have natural hormones (glucocorticoids) in our bodies that help keep the airways open by reducing inflammation. At nighttime when you are sleeping, these hormones are normally at lower levels, allowing more inflammation in the airways and increasing asthma symptoms. If your child has regular asthma symptoms at night, it may mean their asthma is poorly controlled and you should make an appointment and discuss this with your doctor.

Many children outgrow their asthma by the time they reach school age, especially children who have asthma triggered by viral colds.  Asthma symptoms can return at any age.

The more you reduce your exposure to your environmental triggers, the better the chances are that your asthma symptoms will stay away. Children who have family members (or relatives) with asthma and/or allergies are more likely to develop asthma compared with children from non-allergic families.

Definitely! If you are continuously exposed to one of your allergic triggers, your asthma will be more severe, and you will likely require more medicine to control your symptoms. Many people who are exposed to a pet or other allergen continuously will not experience the immediate symptoms (for example hay fever, wheeze), but this does not mean that they are not allergic. This is because constant exposure will contribute to inflammation in the airways of your lungs and inflammation causes asthma symptoms. This constant exposure also makes it more likely for you to experience more severe symptoms when you are exposed to other triggers (an additive effect). Intermittent exposure to allergic triggers can cause immediate, and occasionally severe asthma symptoms. All allergic triggers that have been identified should be avoided as much as possible so that your asthma is milder and easier to control with less medicine.

Allergy testing is used to identify allergic triggers that may be worsening allergic conditions including asthma, hay fever, and food allergies. Once allergic triggers are identified, steps can be taken to reduce exposure, and help to reduce the severity of symptoms. Most allergists will use a prick skin test to identify allergic triggers, a procedure in which a small drop of allergenic extract is placed on the forearm or back, and the surface of the skin is pricked through the drop. A small hive will appear at the site of a positive test within twenty minutes.

A reminder that skin tests aren't always accurate. They sometimes indicate an allergy when there isn't one (false-positive), or skin testing may not trigger a reaction when you're exposed to something that you are allergic to (false-negative). You may react differently to the same test performed on a different day or you may react positively to a substance during a test, but not react to it in everyday life.

The answer is yes!  They take the same medicine (a controller and a reliever) and they even use a spacer like we do! Take a look at some pictures of our furry friends using asthma devices.

Asthma medicines are generally very safe when used as prescribed by a doctor. The treatment goal is to adjust the dose of medication to maintain good control of asthma (no symptoms). The potential benefits of good control of asthma far outweigh any possible risks or side effects of asthma medicine. 

When asthma is well controlled, most colds can be managed using more reliever medicine.  Follow your Asthma Action Plan. Saline sprays and rinses can also be used to help clear the nose.

Many people use their medicines only when they have symptoms and do not use or need daily inhaled corticosteroids. People are given a wide range of advice and it is very variable.

You should use your medicines as your physician has prescribed them. Using your controller and reliever medicines should help your asthma symptoms when you are exposed to your asthma triggers.   If you have concerns or questions,  contact your doctor.

Yes. Someone who has an allergy to a food (including dairy products), and also has asthma, can develop immediate worsening of asthma symptoms during an allergic reaction to that food. On the other hand, it would be extremely unlikely for food allergies to cause chronic or persistent asthma symptoms. An assessment by a trained allergist is necessary to confirm or rule out any concerns about allergy triggers, including food allergy.

A food allergy can be life-threatening (anaphylaxis), especially if someone has asthma. It is very important to have well-controlled asthma when you have food anaphylaxis.  Anaphylaxis can be fatal.

Yes. Exercise is as important for people with asthma as it is for everyone else. There are many Olympic athletes with asthma who maintain good asthma control so they can compete in their sport(s). The key to exercise with asthma is to avoid your triggers and use your medicine as prescribed. If your child's ability to exercise is limited because of asthma, asthma is probably not well controlled and you should see your doctor or asthma educator.

Asthma Myths...Busted!

Asthma can be cured.

  • Asthma cannot be cured, but it can be controlled, so you can live without regular symptoms.

Asthma is contagious.

  • If someone sitting beside you has asthma, you can not catch it like you can a cold.

Asthma triggers are the same for everyone.

  • Every person is unique and so are their triggers for asthma as well as the severity of the response to triggers.

Children can outgrow asthma.

  • Some children appear to outgrow asthma by puberty, but even as an adult symptoms may recur with a viral illness or new allergic trigger.

I have to stop sports and exercise because I have asthma.

  • Exercise regularly for good health.
  • When your asthma is in good control, there are no limitations to sports and exercise.
  • You may need to take your reliever inhaler with some activities; follow your action plan.

Inhaled corticosteroids are dangerous and will stunt my child’s growth.

  • When used as prescribed, inhaled corticosteroids are safe.
  • Regular use of inhaled corticosteroids by children does not significantly affect expected adult height.

I can stop taking my controller medication when I start feeling better.

  • When the controller medication is working, your symptoms decrease and you feel better.  If you stop taking your controller medication, airway swelling comes back.
  • Get and follow your written asthma action plan.

My pet is not triggering my asthma because they are a hypo-allergenic breed.

  • Some people with asthma react to animal dander (flakes of shed skin).  If pets are an asthma trigger for you, then there may be no such thing as an allergy-free dog or cat…..even iguanas can trigger allergies!
  • Reducing your exposure to pet allergens is the best way to help control your asthma. 

Asthma medications are addictive.

  • No, asthma medications are NOT addictive.  Asthma is a chronic condition (like diabetes), therefore most people with asthma need to take medication daily to control their symptoms.

My child does not have asthma because they don’t wheeze.

  • The symptoms of asthma are coughing (the #1 symptom in children), shortness of breath, wheezing and a tight chest (like an elephant sitting on your chest).  Any one of these symptoms can indicate asthma.

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Material on this website has been designed for information purposes only. It should not be used in place of medical advice, instruction and/or treatment. If you have specific questions, please consult your doctor or appropriate health care professional.