If your child wakes up every single morning coughing, wheezing, or having trouble breathing, dry air is probably not the culprit. In truth, it could be a number of different things. Morning asthma affects many individuals and causes difficulty breathing in the wee hours of the night. Let’s take a closer look at what morning asthma is and how it affects your child.
Defining Morning Asthma
Morning asthma actually goes by several different names, including “nocturnal asthma” and “nighttime asthma.” It simply refers to the unfortunate phenomenon of going to bed feeling fine and waking up to inflamed airways. Of course, this happens to everyone on occasion, particularly when the season is changing. However, if your child constantly wakes up to a tight chest or a coughing fit, morning asthma could be the culprit.
What Causes Morning Asthma?
Several things contribute to the cause of morning asthma. Fortunately, there are ways to remedy each one.
1. Resting Hormones
During the day, your child’s body produces certain hormones that protect their airways from inflammation. However, when the body rests at night, it enters a natural cycle that causes the hormones to slow down. Your child’s body essentially thinks that because it is in a resting state, it does not need to be “on guard.” As a result, asthma symptoms begin flaring and worsening from lack of treatment until your child wakes up.
While you cannot control the hormones your child’s body produces, you can pre-treat the symptoms. Talk to your child’s primary care physician about a preventative inhaler for your child’s morning asthma.
2. Nasal Dripping
In addition to the ebbing and flowing of protective hormones, gravity shares the blame as well. Everyone who has had a cold knows that it automatically becomes harder to breathe upon lying down. The explanation is simple: gravity pulls mucus from the sinuses and drips it downward in the respiratory system. It might be gross, but it’s life. Unfortunately, the same thing can trigger “morning asthma.” Even a mild sinus infection can irritate the lungs at night and trigger an asthma attack.
The best way to combat this is to prop your child up on extra pillows. A mild cold medicine may be used if cleared with your child’s doctor.
3. Poor Indoor Air Quality
Did you know that your home’s air quality affects your child’s asthma? Invisible pollutants become airborne and are ingested by your child. Chemicals from cleaners, dust mites, mold spores, pet dander, pollen, and more become especially dangerous at night. During the day, your child is likely on the move, getting fresh air, monitoring their symptoms, and drinking plenty of water. However, the deep, steady breathing that accompanies sleep ensures that your child’s lungs are exposed to every pollutant in the room with no one awake to monitor.
To fight back against poor indoor air quality, make sure you keep your home well-ventilated. Additionally, use a humidifier or dehumidifier to control the moisture level in your home, and make sure to change your air filters every month or two.
Finally, nighttime is a source of anxiety for many individuals. With no activity to occupy the mind but sleep, it becomes very easy to think about stressful topics. If your child suffers from anxiety-induced asthma, they might find unpleasant thoughts and dreams lead to an uncomfortable wake-up call.
To soothe their anxiety, help your child relax and unwind before bed as much as possible. Hot drinks, relaxing smells, and noise machines go a long way in creating a relaxing sleep environment.