So you watched as your or son (or daughter) struggled for air and felt helpless. You listened as his docter said the words, "Your son has asthma." Now what do you do?
Thankfully for you asthma wisdom and resources have impoved impressively since I grew up with asthma in the 1970s and 80s. While I suffered many nights, and missed many days of school, that should be a rare occurance in today's asthmatic world.
Of the 20 million Americans with Asthma, about 7 million are children. And while managing adult asthma is a challenge in itself, managing children with asthma is especially challenging because most children depend on adults like you.
Thus, in a way, as the child suffers so does the entire family. So you, as an asthma mom, dad or guardian, have some work to do. With your help, your guidance, your child can lead a normal, active life.
So, that in mind, here is your 10 step guide to raising an asthmatic child (Follow the links for more asthma wisdom):
Asthma wisdom: You need to know more than the doctor about asthma. It's that simple. By reading this post, and hanging around our site, and asking questions, you are taking the most important step to good asthma management. You must read as much about asthma as you can possibly absorb. The best place to start is right here.
You at least should know the asthma basics, which is that asthma has two components: bronchospasm and inflammation.
- Bronchospasm: This is when the passages in the lungs become narrowed, trapping air in the lungs, and making it hard to breath.
- Inflammation: Most asthmatics have a chronic reddening or swelling of the air passages in the lungs. If this is not treated it can lead to worsening bronchospasm.
Asthma doctor: Sure your son's already been seeing a doctor, you now need to make sure this is the best person to help you manage your son's asthma. A good asthma doctor will prescribe the best meds for your child, and will listen to recommendations you have and work with you in managing your son's asthma. (click here for more great advice).
Asthma triggers: For every asthmatic there are many different things that trigger an asthma attack. You must be very observant and work with your child's pediatrician to learn what your child's triggers are and how to help him avoid them or deal with them. If all else fails, there are meds that may help, like antihystamines, leukotriene blockers, nasal sprays or allergy shots. (For more wisdom click here and here.)
Early Warning Signs: A neat thing about asthma is it has early warning signs that it is about to come about. If you are vigilant (and well educated), you should be able to pick up on these early signs and treat them according to your Asthma Action Plan (see #6 below).
Late Warning Signs: A challenge in managing a child's asthma is they may be unaware they are having asthma symptoms. They might be short-of-breath and just think it's normal. Or they may be embarrased. Therefore, it is your job to know the late warning signs of asthma and treat them according to your Asthma Action Plan.
Asthma Action Plan: This is why you need a good doctor. You need to work with your child and your child's asthma doctor in creating a good Asthma Action Plan that works best for your child.
Involve other people: Basically, every single person involved in the care of your child should be aware that your child has asthma and how to spot the early and late signs of asthma. Plus, all these adults need to be clued into your child's Asthma Action Plan so your child can get the best care possible no matter where he is.
This includes teachers, principals, day care center employees, grandparents, uncles, and even brothers and sisters.
Rescue Medicine: Rescue inhalers are used to treat bronchospasm. They relax the lungs, open the airways, and often cause instant relief. The most common bronchodilators are Albuterol and Xopenex. You must make sure your child's rescue medicine is handy wherever your child is, including home, school, daycare, vacation, etc. (For more wisdom click here and here.)
Controller (Preventative) Medicine: When your child is exposed to a trigger, this can irritate already sensitive airways due to chronic inflammation. Therefore, if your child has more than the "occasional" asthma attack, a good doctor will recommend your child use an inhaled corticosteroid.
10. Always be vigilant: To the best of your ability, try to stay in tune with your child. Basically this would entail following steps 1 through 10.
By following this guide to the best of your ability you will be helping your child lead a normal, active life. And when he does have trouble breathing, you or other adults in your child's life will know exactly what to do.
(To follow the tale of an asthma mom who does a great job managing her child's asthma, check out this great site)