Asthma is a chronic condition that affects the airways of the lungs and is the number one disease in children. Although asthma symptoms and treatment may vary over time, we recommend always having an up to date asthma action plan (AAP) as well as a rescue medication.
UNC Children’s pediatric experts will provide your family expert diagnosis, a personalized care plan, and comprehensive education, so your child can breathe more easily whether at home, at school or daycare, or enjoying favorite activities around your community.
The UNC Children’s Allergy & Asthma Center is North Carolina’s only comprehensive pediatric allergy and asthma center, aligning pediatric specialists from allergy and immunology, pulmonology, respiratory therapy, and more. Our goal is to strengthen relationships and coordination among all those providing asthma care to your child—the schools, primary care providers, and our health care system.
Nationally Recognized Pulmonary Care
You know you’re getting top-quality care, because UNC Children’s pediatric pulmonary program is consistently recognized as one of the country’s best by U.S. News & World Report on its “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals” list.
Symptoms of Asthma
Some children with asthma have mild symptoms that resemble a cold, while others experience severe breathing emergencies. Symptoms may become worse when your child is around irritants, such as smoke, or allergens like pollen or dust. Our pediatric allergy experts care for all degrees of asthma. Common symptoms include:
- Coughing, especially early in the morning or at night
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in the chest
What to Expect
Comprehensive Diagnostic Testing
You’ll appreciate the individualized care and education and the expertise of UNC Children’s physicians and technologists who specialize in evaluating children for asthma. At your first appointment, we’ll ask for a medical history, perform a physical exam, and conduct some noninvasive breathing tests.
During the breathing tests—called pulmonary function tests—your child will be asked to blow hard into a long tube attached to a computer. Our pulmonary function laboratory offers a full range of tests, including:
- Allergy Tests - Your child may also receive allergy tests so we know more about what triggers his or her asthma symptoms.
- Lung diffusion testing – Assesses how well the lungs exchange gasses
- Plethysmography – Measures how much air is in the lungs after taking a deep breath and after breathing out fully
- FeNO testing - Fractional concentration of exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) is a test performed to whether airways are inflamed and can help your provider determine if inhaled steroids will be successful in managing the inflammation.
- Spirometry – Measures how much air your child can breathe in and out, as well as how fast s/he can blow air out
- Bronchodilator challenge – Assesses breathing after your child takes a bronchodilator, a medication that relaxes and expands the airways
- Methacholine challenge – Assesses breathing after your child takes methacholine, a medication that causes airways to narrow if asthma is present
- Exercise challenge – Evaluates how well your child’s lungs and heart work while s/he exercises on a treadmill or bicycle
In preparation for your child's visit:
- Please bring all your child’s asthma medications and a spacer to every appointment.
- An Asthma Control Test (ACT) will be performed at every visit.
- Please plan for your visit to be an hour or longer as we try to ensure that every patient and parent have the tools needed for success
- Please bring any school or medical forms as we do not have access to most school forms
Multidisciplinary Asthma Care
When your child receives care at the UNC Children’s Allergy & Asthma Center, your family benefits from coordinated asthma care from multiple specialists in one location. Your child’s team may include:
- Pediatric allergists – Cares for children with allergies or other immune system issues
- Pediatric pulmonologists – Care for children with breathing problems and lung conditions
- Certified asthma educators (AE-C®) – Teach you and your child how to manage asthma and minimize its impact on quality of life
- Certified respiratory therapists (CRT) – Help your child breathe more easily
- Spanish interpreter available
- Care coordinators – Work with you and your child to coordinate care between different doctors and the schools
- Social Workers
- Child Life Specialists
You can rely on us to coordinate care with your child’s primary care physician, as well as other pediatric specialists, such as registered dietitians, ENT doctors, gastroenterologists, and speech-language pathologists as needed.
Managing Your Child’s Asthma
We’ll work with you to create an asthma management plan tailored to your child. The plan could include:
- Personalized asthma education
- Strategies for avoiding asthma triggers, including allergy treatments
- Quick-relief medicines – Reduce asthma symptoms when they happen, usually through an inhaler or nebulizer
- Long-term control medications prevent inflammation that occurs within the lungs airways. These medications may include inhaled corticosteroids, biologics or allergy immunotherapy.
- Omalizumab (Xolair) – Treats severe persistent asthma with an injectable medication
- Personalized asthma action plan – Provides specific, written instructions for early treatment of asthma symptoms to share with your child’s school or care providers