Asthma Program

The University of Florida, Pediatric Pulmonary Division offers the expertise of Board Certified Pediatric Pulmonologists as well as an interdisciplinary team of nurses, respiratory therapists, clinical pharmacists, nutritionists and social workers. Our team endeavors to provide a family centered, culturally appropriate approach to the development of individualized asthma plans for patients referred from their primary care providers. Asthma clinics are held on the 2nd floor of the Shands Medical Plaza.


What is Asthma?

Asthma is a manageable chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. It affects over 6.8 million American children and is the most common chronic illness of childhood. Asthma accounts for 12.8 million lost school days annually. It is responsible for more hospitalizations than any other chronic disease. The numbers of people with asthma have been on the rise for over 25 years.

Asthma occurs due to irritable and sensitive airways in the lungs. The precise cause of this irritability is not known. We do know, however, that there are many triggers of asthma in a child. People of all ages have asthma. For some children, asthma symptoms improve as they get older but many times, asthma does not go away in adulthood.

Although it is unusual, some people can die from asthma. In 2004, 3816 Americans died from the disease. Asthma is the 3rd leading cause of hospitalizations of kids under 15. In 2005, there were approximately 679,000 emergency room visits due to asthma in those under 15. Some characteristics that place a child in a higher risk group for death from asthma are inadequate use of preventive medications prior to hospitalizations for asthma, loss of consciousness, adolescence and disregard of asthma symptoms. With proper diagnosis and medications, most asthma episodes can be prevented or stopped quickly and most deaths prevented.

With good management, a child with asthma should not wake at night with increased asthma symptoms, should be as active as other children and should not need to use an inhaler more than twice a day. Most hospital and emergency room visits can be avoided by early recognition and treatment and a call to the health care provider if treatment does not work.

Normal Lung Function

When we breathe in, air flows through the nose or mouth, down the throat, through the voice box, and down the windpipe (trachea). The air then comes to two main large airways (the right and left bronchial tubes). These large airways branch into smaller and smaller airways (bronchioles).

Lung function

Lung Function in Asthma

The airways of asthmatics are much more sensitive and reactive than the airways of people who do not have asthma. They tend to become irritated very easily. In a child who has asthma, the functions of the airways and the mucus glands become hyperactive. During an asthma episode, three events take place in the airways. Together, they cause the airways to get smaller.

Bronchiole

Asthma Episodes Triggers

Triggers are substances or situations that cause an asthma episode or worsening of day to day asthma symptoms. Each child has their own set of triggers. It is often hard to identify the event that causes a particular episode because a combination of factors may cause the episode

dandelion blowing in the wind

Early Warning Signs of Asthma

Early warning signs of asthma are the physical and emotional changes that happen before the child begins to experience breathing difficulties. These are the earliest signs of asthma and occur before you can hear the child wheezing or coughing.

woman hugging boy on her lap

Treatment of Asthma

Treatment should be started as soon as early warning signs occur. This is why it is so important to recognize early warning signs. Chances of a severe episode are greatly reduced by fast and appropriate treatment. Delaying treatment can make asthma symptoms harder to stop.

A student in the College of Nursing's online Nurse Practioner program completes her clinical studies at Gainesville's Eastside Clinic.

Living with Asthma

Asthma affects not only the child but the entire family. For children with mild asthma, the impact on the family may be minimal. In some cases, however, the family may experience many difficulties

girl wearing black vest raising two hands near green grass field during daytime

Helpful Resources

Many resources are available to families. There are newsletters and educational materials available through your health care provider or national groups. Support groups and parenting classes are available through your local health care providers. Some groups provide special summer camps for children with asthma. This list is just a few of the places you might find helpful.

Centers for Disease Control

CDC’s National Asthma Control Program works to help Americans with asthma achieve better health and improved quality of life

Medic Alert

Provides Internationally recognized Medical IDs, online Emergency Health Record, 24/7 Emergency Response Team.

National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases (NIH)

NIAID supports targeted research to understand the underlying immune responses that lead to asthma

National Heart Lung and Blood Institute

Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma.

The American Lung Association

The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), a not-for-profit organization founded in 1953, is the leading patient organization for people with asthma and allergies, and the oldest asthma and allergy patient group in the world.

The National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine

Our multidisciplinary team treats all aspects of asthma. Whether you have mild, moderate or severe asthma, we have a wide range of individualized asthma treatment programs to help you.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

EPA’s coordinated approach on asthma promotes scientific understanding of environmental asthma triggers and ways to manage asthma in community settings through research, education and outreach.