Updated: May 8
What is Paediatric Asthma?
The anxiety for a parent supporting a child who is amid the breathlessness and wheezing of an asthma attack can be acute. There are few things harder than trying to calm a child that is struggling to breathe while you yourself are experiencing such a high level of stress.
The prevalence of Asthma seems to be consistently on the rise, most likely due to the external factors of our western lifestyle and diet. It is certainly one of the more common paediatric ailments we see in clinic.
Both Western medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) have similar views on the signs, symptoms and some etiology of paediatric asthma. These include the blockage of airways with phlegm, bronchial spasm and obstruction. Both western and Traditional Chinese Medicine also agree that there are external and internal causes for the disease, for example allergens and hereditary factors.
Paediatric asthma may be diagnosed when a child presents with ongoing respiratory symptoms. These can include wheezing, coughing / night-time cough, difficulty breathing and chest tightness. Symptoms of an actual asthma attack can be very scary and exacerbated by panic. During an asthma attack a cough may be present. There may be signs of respiratory distress, the child may be uncommunicative and struggle to breathe and may have a continuous high-pitched wheeze caused by turbulence in the airway.
The Traditional Chinese Medicine approach to Asthma
From a TCM standpoint Paediatric asthma occurs from retention of excessive turbid phlegm due to deficiency of the Lung, Spleen and Kidney. External factors are exposure to cold or hot, allergens and intestinal parasites. These external factors agitate the retained phlegm in the interior of the body which blocks the lungs leading to the asthma attack.
The following are considered TCM causative factors of Paediatric Asthma:
· Hereditary factors.
· Repeated infections – weaken spleen and lead to dampness.
· Too much phlegm producing foods – milk, cheese, peanuts, sugar.
· Irregular feeding in babies – can lead to deficient spleen or stomach qi resulting in accumulation disorder and phlegm.
· Food additives – possible allergic reactions.
· Too much television or gaming – can result in depleted qi and yin.
· Bad posture – affects lung qi.
· Lack of exercise – little or no exercise doesn’t lead to strengthening of lung and spleen.
· Emotional trauma.
· Corticosteroid creams in use if eczema – damp can internalise into lungs.
· Allergens – can trigger attack.
Many of these factors correspond closely to the Western Medicine viewpoint particularly the hereditary and dietary / allergens.
Like all ailments they can present differently for each patient. In TCM we look at health as a demonstration of balance. Ill health is when we are experiencing excess and deficiency. Generally, paediatric asthma at the acute stage is of the excess type, and that at the remission stage is of the deficiency type, no matter what the causative factor of the disease is.
Listed are some examples of different presentations of Paediatric Asthma. You can see in TCM when patterns are established, we make detailed observation of not only the specific asthmatic symptomatic presentation but also note skin pallor, tongue and pulse.
Asthma at the acute stage.
1) Asthma due to cold.
Often accompanied by coughing, wheezing, gurgling with sputum, nasal obstruction, sneezing, clear nasal discharge, spitting of thin, white and frothy sputum. The child may express an aversion to cold and demonstrate an absence of sweating and thirst. On examination there is a white tongue coating, and a superficial and rolling pulse.
2) Asthma due to heat.
There are frequent spells of coughing with little sputum first and sticky and thick or yellow sputum. Wheezing, possibly fever, inflamed throat. The tongue has a red tip with yellow or sticky coating. There is a rolling and rapid pulse.
3) Asthma due to spasm.
The child’s whole chest and bronchi go into spasm. The have difficulty breathing in and out. This is common to allergic reaction and external cold attack. Main feature is child cannot breathe without any other distinguishing signs and symptoms.
4) Asthma due to phlegm.
Like above the child’s lungs also go into spasm. The difference is that there are copious amounts of phlegm, which block the air passages. There is also a slippery pulse.
Asthma at the remission stage.
1) Deficiency of lung Qi.
This child is of a pale complexion. They experience spontaneous sweating and have susceptibility to the common cold. They have a pale tongue with thin coating, and a weak pulse.
2) Deficiency of spleen Qi.
The child is of pale complexion. They experience large quantities of thin sputum, poor appetite and irregular bowel movements. They have a pale tongue with white coating, and a slow and weak pulse.
3) Deficiency of spleen Qi & lung Qi (Hyperactive).
As per spleen and lung deficiency, except this child has lots of energy. In contrast it is the parents that are often exhausted, and child may be manipulative.
The child has a grey face, phlegmy cough, phlegm blocking airway, nasal discharge, bubbly sputum.
4) Phlegm plus accumulation disorder.
As per phlegm but child is also strong, loud and red cheeked. They may have green, smelly, irregular stools.
5) Lingering pathogenic factor (cold).
The child has a grey face with vacant eyes. They report not much phlegm. The child is relatively. They have a history of attacks, antibiotic use and immunisations. They have swollen glands and symptoms are worse in a cold/damp environment.
6) Lingering pathogenic factor (hot).
Relatively strong child, not much phlegm. They have a white forehead, red lips or cheeks, prone to fevers. They have vacant eyes. Symptoms are worse in hot environments. This is often animal allergy.
Shonishin Treatment for Asthma
Shonishin, Japanese paediatric needle free acupuncture is an excellent therapeutic tool to bring your child’s body back into balance. Acupuncture points and channels are activated by gentle tapping, rubbing and massage. This works to clear excess’s or boost areas of deficiency. In turn strengthening the child’s system. You can read our detailed blog 'Paediatric Acupuncture - Shonishin Explained' to learn more.
Children are wonderfully receptive to Shonishin meaning that great results can be experienced in minimal amounts of time. It is also possible to learn a variety of techniques that can be practiced at home between sessions to optimise results.
Find out more about Shonishin at Red Bridge Family Acupuncture with a free 15 minute health assessment.
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