This article is from the Children Allergies and Asthma FAQ, by Eileen Kupstas Soo firstname.lastname@example.org with numerous contributions by others.
On asthma: Not all people with asthma have allergies.
Roughly 5% of the population lives with asthma.
A generally accepted definition of asthma is that it is a
disease that is charaterized by increased responsiveness
of the trachea (windpipe) and bronchi (main airway) to
sometype of trigger that causes widespread narrowing of
the airways that changes in severity either as a result
of treatment, or spontaneously.
Acute asthma is what we generally refer to as an asthma
attack. The bronchial tubes suddenly narrow, and the person
is acutely short of breath, and (sometimes) wheezes. An
acute attack may require medical stabalization in a hospital
setting; unless special equipment, medication, and help is
available in the home.
Chronic asthma produces symptoms on a frequent basis, in some cases
almost constantly. It is characterized by frequent symptoms, ranging
from very mild symptoms to full-blown acute attacks. Chronic asthma
generally requires daily medication, and may require the use of oral
steroids, in addition to other medications.
On doctor's: Allergists are not the only physicians who
treat asthma. Pulmonologists are also medically specialized
physicians who treat many people who have asthma.
Not all asthma is triggered by allergies. Not all allergies cause or
develop into asthma.
One main asthma trigger in children is illness. Typically a child has
his first attack 1-2 days after the onset of a respiratory illness.
-wheezing (no wheeze may mean WORSE asthma, sometimes)
-elevated breathing rate (normal under 25 breaths per minute;
over 40 is cause for calling doctor. Test your child's
normal rate when well, so you can tell when breathing
is elevated. Remember: These numbers are just
-coughing, especially early morning
-longer expiration than inspiration
Asthma and reflux often co-occur, although it's not known what the
Attacks may build over days (as with illness-induced) or hit within
seconds. Generally, the more triggers present, the worse the attack.
In little kids, asthma is often misdiagnosed. Many little kids with
recurrent bronchial illness really have asthma. Of particular note is
"cough variant" asthma, in which the main symptom is coughing,
especially early morning. My allergist's rule is "If ventolin [an asthma
medication] helps, it's asthma," no matter what it's called.