Are High Altitudes Safe for Kids with Asthma?

Asthma is a respiratory condition that can take many different forms. One of the main symptoms of asthma is an increased sensitivity to high elevations. For a sensitive asthmatic, being at high elevations can be a physically taxing experience, which may lead you to question whether high altitudes are safe for kids with asthma.

However, there is a wide variety of experiences that an asthmatic can experience at high elevations. In fact, some asthmatics may experience positive benefits from the cleaner air that’s available at higher elevations.

If you have an asthmatic child, this guide can help them adjust to higher elevations. An asthma specialist for younger patients may help you decide if this is a safe activity.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a condition in which an individual’s airways narrow and swell, producing extra mucus. This can make breathing very difficult for those afflicted, and in extreme cases, a bad asthma attack can be life-threatening.

The condition has the potential to have a major impact on an individual’s life and the way they plan their daily activities. On the other hand, some individuals only experience mild asthma, which is usually inconsequential to their lives.

There are many different manifestations of asthma, so it behooves a patient to seek out the opinion of a specialist about the best way to manage their condition and meet their specific needs. Some of the more common asthma varieties include:

  • Exercise-induced asthma: Asthma that is triggered by exercise. It may be worse in environments where the air is cold and dry.
  • Allergy-induced asthma: Asthma that is triggered by airborne substances and irritants.
  • Occupational asthma: Asthma that develops thanks to various workplace and household substances.

 Symptoms of Asthma

As there are many different types of asthma, there is a wide variety of symptoms that can express themselves between patients. Some of the most commonly seen symptoms are: 

  • Chest tightness and pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing while you exhale, a symptom that is especially common in children
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Coughing and wheezing attacks that are made more severe by a respiratory virus such as the common cold or flu

Asthma can also display more severe symptoms as it worsens over time. Some of these symptoms are:

  • An increased need to use an inhaler
  • Severe difficulty breathing
  • An uptick in the frequency of standard asthma symptoms

Asthma and Elevation

Navigating high elevations can be tricky for asthmatics, as the air at higher elevations is much thinner than at sea level. If you live in a place like Colorado or New Mexico, then much of the terrain you navigate is at a very high elevation.

In addition, the climate at high elevations can be very dry and cold, which further increases the chance of an asthma attack. For this reason, an asthmatic person will likely have to watch their symptoms more closely while at high elevations.

Certain conditions can be exacerbated by asthma. One example is HAPE or High-Altitude Pulmonary Edema. This condition becomes more likely at altitudes above 8,000 feet, and asthmatics may be more vulnerable to developing it.

On the Bright Side

Staying at high elevations may have some benefits for asthmatics. This is in part because mountain air and air at high elevations tend to be cleaner than that of crowded cities. Outdoor and indoor pollution can contribute heavily to the development and exacerbation of asthma in vulnerable patients.

During a check-up, your physician can possibly determine whether you or your child would benefit from life at high elevation. Some of this might depend on your specific type of asthma and how it responds to various environmental stressors.

When to Seek Treatment

In some situations, such as a severe asthma attack, you might need to seek out emergency treatment. Stay wary if you experience the following symptoms:

  • No improvement in symptoms even after inhaler use
  • Shortness of breath even when doing minute levels of physical activity
  • Rapid worsening and shortness of breath

L.A.’s Best Respiratory Doctor

Dr. Mayank Shukla is one of the best resources in L.A. for individuals with asthmatic children. If you would like to discuss your and your child’s situation with a professional, contact our center for pediatric pulmonology today to make an appointment and get the information that you need.

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