Lung Diseases in Children

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Several different lung diseases can affect a child. Asthma, cystic lung disease and interstitial lung disease are three of the most common lung issues children face. With each disease, precautions need to be taken so the child’s symptoms are controlled. Understanding the symptoms, treatment and preventative measures for each case can help you feel less anxious about it.


Interstitial Lung Disease

Interstitial lung disease is a disease that causes inflammation of the lung, resulting in the buildup of scar tissue. The tissues of the lungs then begin to thicken, which interferes with breathing. Childhood ILD differs from adult ILD as it is typically diagnosed in the first year of life; however, in some cases it doesn’t begin until later in childhood. ILD is caused by environmental factors or it is inherited. Symptoms include breathlessness and dry coughing. The disease inhibits the body’s oxygen levels, therefore as the disease progresses the heart can become enlarged. ILD is diagnosed using X-rays, blood tests, CT scans, medical histories and ruling out other physical causes for the symptoms.

Treatment of ILD

While there is no cure for ILD there are treatments that can reduce symptoms of the disease. Oxygen therapy is often prescribed to children with ILD as a means to improve breathing. Steroid therapy through inhalation is another method used to treat the symptoms of ILD. Adults sometimes receive lung transplants to cure them of ILD, but as of 2010, so few children received them that it is rarely recommended as a solution for the disease.

Cystic Lung Disease

Cystic lung disease is a term used to describe four different lung issues typically caused during fetal development. They include bronchogenic cysts, lobar emphysema, cystic adenomatoid malformation and pulmonary sequestration. In bronchogenic cyst disease, a cyst develops on the lower lung lobe or on the trachea or esophagus. The cyst is usually discovered, as it becomes infected and interferes with the child’s breathing.

Lobal emphysema causes an obstruction on the lung lobe that does not allow air to flow freely during the expansion and deflation breathing process. The left lobe is most typically involved and the obstructed air flow of that lobe interferes with the healthy remaining lobe. This condition can eventually lead to respiratory distress and circulatory system failure. Pulmonary sequestration describes a tissue mass in the lung that doesn’t function as part of the lung. It causes frequent pulmonary infections to occur which can cause heart failure.

Treatment for CLD

Cystic lung disease is sometimes discovered during a fetal ultrasound. Other times it is not found until a child has difficulty breathing and is in pain or is wheezing with each breath. An X-ray or CT scan usually shows the problem. Treatment for the individual diseases include surgery, fluid aspiration and medications to reduce symptoms. The majority of children treated for cystic lung disease fully recover.

Asthma

Childhood asthma is a fairly common childhood lung disease. It is caused when the airways become inflamed. There are may triggers for asthma, including secondhand tobacco smoke, cold air, exercise, allergens in the environment, stress and illness. Once an attack begins, it can remain mild or can quickly escalate to a life-threatening situation. A child with asthma should always have a rescue inhaler nearby. Asthma is diagnosed through a variety of methods, including blood testing, listening for wheezing — though it is not necessary for diagnosis — family medical history, symptom charting and a peak air flow monitor test.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Once the disease is diagnosed, a treatment plan is put in place. The treatment plan will generally include preventative medications and rescue medication for after an attack begins. The preventative medications help keep the airway inflammation reduced and the airways open. The rescue medications are used once an attack is underway.

Taking steps at home to eliminate asthma triggers can be helpful. Removing dust collecting furniture, stuffed animals and tobacco smoke can reduce attacks. An allergist can discover what the child is allergic to so the family can eliminate it from the child’s environment whenever possible.

Maintaining a preventative medication schedule will also help reduce attacks. Parents are urged to seek immediate medical care if the rescue medications fail to work or if the child’s lips begin to turn blue or he continues to struggle to breathe.

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