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How to Help Your Child Breathe Easier

  • Chris Woolston, M.S.
  • Posted March 11, 2013

More than seven million children in the United States have asthma. They're everywhere. Look at a soccer field, walk in a mall, or take in a Saturday matinee, and you're practically guaranteed to see asthmatic kids. You'd just never know it by looking at them.

Children with asthma don't have to spend their days at home, wheezing and out of breath. In fact, the condition doesn't even have to slow them down. With support from parents, doctors, teachers, and others, nearly every kid with asthma can play just as hard, accomplish just as much, feel just as good, and breathe just as easily as other kids.

Breathing easily at home

Asthma control begins at home. You can help your child breathe easier by keeping the air clear of dust, perfume, tobacco smoke, and other irritants that could get into her lungs and set off an attack. Vacuuming regularly and clearing her room of major dust traps such as potted plants, stuffed animals, and shag carpeting can be a big help. If your child is allergic to pollen, you may need to keep the windows closed during the spring and summer and install a filter in your air conditioner.

Emotional support

Your child's emotions can be just as important as his environment when it comes to controlling asthma. "Many children think they're the only person in the world with asthma, and that can be very depressing," says H. James Wedner, MD, chief of allergy and immunology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri.

Anxiety and depression can trigger asthma attacks in children and make the condition more difficult to control. If your child seems sad or distraught, reassure him that asthma is a very common -- and very controllable -- condition. If he still feels distressed, or if he is in emotional pain from other causes, counseling can give him new determination to fight his asthma.

Help from a doctor

Your child can gain extra confidence with the help of a device called a peak-flow meter. This small, handheld device, available from a doctor, measures how well your child is breathing. The device tells her when her asthma is under control and when she needs extra medication. In short, a peak-flow meter makes your child the expert on her condition.

Your child's doctor will also prescribe medications to control asthma and prevent attacks. Of course, these treatments will only help if taken correctly. Make sure she knows how and when to use her inhaler and any other medications.

Asthma control at school

Your child should be able to breathe just as easily at school as at home. Most states protect a child's right to self-administer asthma medication at school. Find out if the school lets students carry inhalers. If not, your child will have to keep his inhaler in the nurse's office or another convenient location, a place that is unlocked and easily accessible after hours. (If you're worried your child won't have quick access to his inhaler, ask whether his coach or teachers can keep it within easy reach.) You should make sure teachers and coaches can recognize the symptoms of an asthma attack. If they're not familiar with the disease, you may also need to assure them, if appropriate, that your child can fully participate in any activities.

Asthma can be challenging for both you and your child, but don't give up halfway to success. Until your child is at his best -- both physically and emotionally -- there's still some room for improvement. When the asthma is finally under control, everyone can breathe easier.

Further Resources

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
800-822-ASMA
http://www.aaaai.org

American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
800-842-7777
http://acaai.org

American Lung Association
800-LUNG USA
http://www.lungusa.org

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
800-7-ASTHMA
http://www.aafa.org

References

Strunk, Robert M.D., Bacharier, Leonard M.D. Asthma Education Committee at St. Louis Children's Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine.

Perry CS, Toole KA. Impact of school nurse case management on asthma control in school-aged children. J Sch Health. 2000 Sep;70(7):303-4.

Diette GB, Markson L, Skinner EA, Nguyen TT, Algatt-Bergstrom P, Wu AW. Nocturnal asthma in children affects school attendance, school performance, and parents' work attendance. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2000 Sep;154(9):923-8.

Litonjua AA, Carey VJ, Burge HA, Weiss ST, Gold DR. Exposure to cockroach allergen in the home is associated with incident doctor-diagnosed asthma and recurrent wheezing. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2001 Jan;107(1):41-47.

Brunton SA, Saphir RL. Dust mites and asthma. Hosp Pract (Off Ed). 1999 Sep 15;34(10):67-8, 71-2, 75-6.

American Lung Association. Asthma & Children Fact Sheet. February 2010. http://www.lungusa.org/lung-disease/asthma/resources/facts-and-figures/asthma-children-fact-sheet.html

Allergy and Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics. Medications at School. http://www.aanma.org/advocacy/meds-at-school/

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Asthma Statistics. http://www.aaaai.org/media/resources/media_kit/asthma_statistics.stm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Asthma. Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Children: National Health Interview Survery, 2009, Table 1. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/asthma.htm

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