Parents How to: If Your Child Has Asthma

Your child has asthma. Maybe the only symptom has been coughing at night, or after exercise. Well, you are not alone. More than 15 million Americans have asthma; about 5 or 6 million of them are children. Asthma is the most common pediatric chronic illness, and one of the leading causes for hospital admissions.

Tips to gain better control over your child’s asthma

Triggers. Know what triggers your child’s asthma so that together you can work to avoid or minimize exposure.

Get the school/school nurse involved. Some day-care centers may be reluctant to administer the needed medication. Offer to teach all staff involved. Help them to understand that not offering medication in the early stages can lead to more severe symptoms, which become far more difficult to handle. Older children may be able to administer their medication via an inhaler by themselves. Some schools only allow inhalers to be used in the nurse’s office. If your child is able to know when and how to take the medication, work with the school to allow him or her to carry the inhaler at all times, especially to gym. This can avoid delay and progression of symptoms. Have a second inhaler on hand in the nurse’s office as a backup. Keep track of doses used and replace the back-up before it runs out.

Nebulizers. Children under age 5 will usually use a nebulizer instead of an inhaler. This machine creates a mist of the medication that can be easily inhaled using a mask. To make treatment time easier, keep a box of “special” toys that are only used at treatment time. Include cassette tapes, books, puzzles and videos that help to make this a special time.

Support groups and camps. Investigate support groups for children with asthma, as well as for parents through your local chapter of the American Lung Association, pulmonary rehabilitation programs or your pediatrician. Talk to them also about summer camps. These camps can provide wonderful, active experiences for kids with asthma in a setting designed for medical safety.

Preventive maintenance. Remember that asthma can be controlled. Don’t accept school absenteeism, lack of an active lifestyle, hospital visits or sleepless nights as a reasonable trade-off for having a child with asthma. Being in good control of one’s asthma means preventing symptoms from occurring in the first place, not dealing with them after they happen.