Asthma (Pediatric)

Comprehensive care for children with asthma

C.S. Mott Children's Hospital provides world-class care for children with asthma.  Our pulmonologists are each experts in pediatric asthma, with experience treating a full range of asthma severity, from routine to complex.

Asthma Symptoms

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the bronchial airways.  Inflammation causes narrowing of the airways, in part by causing airway smooth muscle constriction.  Common childhood asthma symptoms include:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Chest tightness
  • Breathlessness

In some cases, airway obstruction is so severe that patients can stop breathing. Asthma is the most common chronic disease, affecting nearly 10 percent of all children. It is the most common cause of hospitalization in children. More children miss school because of asthma than any other chronic disease.

Diagnosing asthma

There is no single test for diagnosing children with asthma. The diagnosis is usually based on recurrent asthma symptoms (above) that are relieved by asthma medicine. Asthma tends to run in families and occurs in children with nasal allergies and/or eczema.

The diagnosis of asthma can be confirmed with pulmonary function testing. Traditional pulmonary function testing is difficult for children less than 6 years of age to perform, because it requires special breathing maneuvers. Our state-of-the-art pulmonary function laboratory offers a range of tests from a staff of experienced respiratory therapists who put both children and parents quickly at ease with their commitment to patient care.

In selected cases, we may perform additional tests such as bronchial provocation testing or infant lung function testing. Finally, allergy skin testing is also available in our clinic.

Asthma treatment

Asthma is treated with two types of medication — controllers and relievers (rescue medications).

Controllers are medications that reduce inflammation in the airways. They can prevent an asthma attack. They should be given daily, even when the child has no asthma symptoms.  The most commonly used controller medications are inhaled steroids. Inhaled steroids can be given safely to children. However, to avoid side effects, attention must be paid to the type of inhaled steroid, the dose of inhaled steroid, and the method by which the medication is given. Inhaled medication should be given through a valved holding chamber or spacer device, which prevents side effects by making sure the medication goes to the lungs rather than being swallowed. A variety of anti-inflammatory medications is available.   

In contrast, reliever/rescue medications such as albuterol reduce narrowing of the airways by relaxing airway smooth muscle.  They should be given only as needed.  Our team will choose medications for your child based on age, severity of asthma, and how previous medications have worked.

In some cases, asthma control can be worsened by other conditions, such as gastroesophageal reflux, or a special mold allergy called allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA). Our doctors are trained and experienced in finding these aggravating conditions, and we work alongside other subspecialists at Mott when needed to provide seamlessly integrated care for your needs.

Special care for complex asthma

For patients with difficult-to-control asthma, we also offer a special Children's Asthma Wellness Program. This program is designed for children three years and older who have had at least two emergency department visits for asthma and/or one hospitalization. We assist both the family and the child’s primary care provider in managing the child’s asthma, and provide intensive education and case management as part of a year-long program to decrease emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

Living with asthma

With proper management, children with asthma can often participate in most sports and activities. Our team will work with you and your family to establish routines and ensure optimal care for your child in a variety of settings including school and extracurricular activities.

Asthma education — understanding the treatments, and when and how to take them — is critical to the success of your care and is emphasized during visits. Our staff includes a number of certified asthma educators. In addition, our social worker helps support patients and families, particularly as they interact with schools, insurance companies, medical equipment vendors and other partners on the health care team.

Leadership in asthma research

Research is of key importance at University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital. Five of our pulmonologists are funded by the National Institutes of Health to study lung diseases. Two particular areas of interest are the roles of viruses and air pollution in the development of asthma attacks. Although most children with asthma have allergies, viruses are the most common cause of asthma flare-ups, accounting for approximately 80 percent of attacks. The common cold virus, rhinovirus, is the number one cause of asthma flare-ups.

Why choose Mott?

Our team of eleven board-eligible or -certified pediatric pulmonologists creates a personalized asthma action plan for each individual patient. Each member of our team has deep expertise in the treatment of pediatric asthma, which can require a very different approach than adult asthma.

As our program has grown over the years, we have expanded our team, which means you can see our physicians within two weeks of calling for an appointment.

Take the next step

Our pulmonologists see asthma patients at our Northville and Ann Arbor locations. Schedule an appointment by calling us at 734-764-4123.