Viral-Induced Asthma: How To Protect Your Child This Winter

Does your child have asthma? If so, you already expect flare-ups during physical exertion or when allergies are in full swing. However, did you know that the reason your child has asthma flare ups during bouts of common colds or flu could be because of viral-induced asthma? Viral-induced asthma ramps up the danger of respiratory complications from both the rhinovirus (RV), also known as the common cold, and Influenza Type A. Here's what you need to know about this type of asthma, and practical guidelines for getting through this year's cold and flu season.

What is viral-induced asthma?

Viral-induced asthma is just what its name implies: asthma caused by a viral infection. There are two patterns for this type of asthma:

  1. Asthma symptoms develop in those who are not asthma patients during or after a viral infection. These are usually temporary for the life of the virus and the recovery period.

  2. Asthma patients experience flare ups or worsening of asthma symptoms because of viral infection. As a matter of fact, viral infections are to blame for 40% of flare-ups in adult asthmatics.

The predominant culprits for both patterns of viral-induced asthma are rhinovirus and influenza A. In fact, 80% of children who struggle with episodic wheezing are also fighting a rhinovirus.

When a person is exposed to a virus, his or her body rallies a defense. This defense often includes an inflaming of the respiratory passages to fight colds and flu; this increases mucus production. If a person's respiratory system is already compromised by asthma, this can trigger wheezing and difficulty breathing.

What are the complications of viral-induced asthma?

Without proper management of asthma symptoms during a bout with a cold or flu, complications may arise such as:

  • severe difficulty breathing

  • airway damage

  • secondary infections, such as pneumonia

How can you know whether or not your child is at risk?

A group of Viennese researchers has recently published results of a study showing that viral-induced asthma can be predicted by a simple blood test. Hopefully, this test will someday allow doctors to predict which children are most at risk for dangerous asthma symptoms during cold and flu seasons. The researchers point to the future hope for a vaccine against rhinoviruses that will protect this at-risk section of the population.

Until that time, however, you are most likely to find out that your child has viral-induced asthma the hard way: by noting flare-ups that occur when he or she has a cold or the flu.

How can you manage your child's viral-induced asthma this winter?

If your child has viral-induced asthma, it is critical that you take the following steps during cold and flu season:

  • Prevent. Teach your child how to guard against colds and flu by washing hands frequently, avoiding contact with people who are sick, and not sharing food/drink with others.

  • Prepare. As winter approaches, make sure that you have inhalers and/or nebulizers ready for sudden asthma attacks. If your child takes a steroid medication during asthma flare-ups, ask the doctor if you can fill the prescription now to have on hand.

  • Be proactive. Ask your child's doctor what you should do when you first notice that your child is coming down a cold or flu. A common treatment plan is to begin asthma treatment as soon as cold or flu symptoms appear.

If you have noticed in the past that your child has asthma flare-ups when sick, consider making an appointment with an allergy clinic in your area. An allergy doctor can give you additional information about this condition and formulate a treatment plan specific to your child. Staying one step ahead of this year's cold and flu season will help prevent a difficult winter for your child.