Reactive Airway Disease in Children: Care Instructions

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The airways inside the lungs of a child

Your Care Instructions

Reactive airway disease is a breathing problem. It appears as wheezing, which is a whistling noise in your child's airways. It may be caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Or it may be from allergies, tobacco smoke, or something else in the environment. When your child is around these triggers, his or her body releases chemicals that make the airways get tight.

Reactive airway disease is a lot like asthma. Both can cause wheezing. But asthma is ongoing, while reactive airway disease may occur only now and then. Your child may have tests to see if he or she has asthma. Your child may take the same medicines used to treat asthma. Good home care and follow-up care with your child's doctor can help your child recover.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think your child is having a problem with his or her medicine.
  • Keep your child away from smoke. Do not smoke or let anyone else smoke around your child or in your house.
  • If you know what caused your child to wheeze (such as perfume or the odour of household chemicals), try to avoid it in the future.
  • Teach your child to wash his or her hands several times a day. And try using hand gels or wipes that contain alcohol. This can prevent colds and other infections.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has severe trouble breathing. Signs may include the chest sinking in, using belly muscles to breathe, or nostrils flaring while your child is struggling to breathe.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your child coughs up yellow, dark brown, or bloody mucus.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child's wheezing gets worse.

Where can you learn more?

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