Five Ways Parents Can Help Manage Their Child’s Asthma
A little more than eight percent of children in the United States currently struggle with asthma.
If your child is one of them, it’s important to know how to stay on top of their condition. Not only will this knowledge help your child feel their best while continuing to enjoy their favorite activities, but it’ll also give you peace of mind knowing they’re healthy and safe.
Listed below are five tips to help parents manage their child’s (or children’s) asthma with ease.
What Happens During an Asthma Attack
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When it comes to caring for a child with asthma, it’s important to actually know what’s happening internally when an asthma attack strikes.
Put simply, when an asthma attack occurs, three things happen:
1. The muscles around the airways tighten (this is known as a bronchospasm)
2. The lining of the airways in the lungs become swollen
3. Mucus thickens
All of these issues come together to hinder breathing and cause an asthma attack.
1. Know their Triggers
The first step to managing your child’s asthma successfully is knowing what triggers an attack for them.
Everyone has different triggers, so you’ll need to be extremely observant — especially if your child is young and doesn’t know how to connect certain events to their asthma attacks — to identify triggers and help your child avoid or handle them safely.
Some common triggers to be on the lookout for include:
1. Outdoor allergens, including pollen from grass, weeds, and trees
2. Indoor allergens like dust mites, mold, and pet dander
3. Foods like eggs, nuts, shellfish, and wheat
4. Food additives like sulfates, food dyes, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and salicylates
5. Airborne irritants like smoke, strong odors, perfumes, colognes, and chemical fumes
6. Illnesses like colds or flu
7. Sports that involve lots of running (basketball, soccer, etc.)
9. Cold air
10. Extremely dry, windy, or wet weather
2. Catch Symptoms Early
No matter how diligent you are when it comes to helping your child avoid asthma triggers, there are still going to be times when attacks occur. When your child is experiencing an asthma attack, it’s important to be able to spot the signs early on so that you can get them the help they need as quickly as possible.
In addition to having trouble breathing, coughing, wheezing, and being short of breath, some other common symptoms of an asthma attack include:
1. Chest pressure or tightness
2. Tight muscles in the neck and chest
3. Difficulty speaking
4. Anxious or panicked feelings
5. Pale, sweaty skin
6. Blue fingernails or lips
Many of these symptoms are easy to identify just by looking at your child. But, if you’re not sure if they’re having an asthma attack or not, you can use a stethoscope to listen to their lungs and find out if they’re wheezing or not taking full breaths.
3. Keep Medication on Hand
There are a number of different medications available that can help stop asthma attacks in their tracks. These medications need to be inhaled to be effective.
Many people with asthma benefit from bronchodilators, which are designed to relax and open up the muscles in the airways and provide relief from an asthma attack.
In addition to using bronchodilators, your child’s doctor might also recommend an inhaled corticosteroid. This helps reduce inflammation in the airways.
It’s generally best to use a bronchodilator first, then follow with a corticosteroid inhaler. Corticosteroid inhalers take longer to work, so your child will get faster relief from a bronchodilator. Corticosteroid inhalers are still beneficial, though, because they can penetrate the lungs deeper and minimize the risk of experiencing asthma attacks later on.
Whether your child is using a bronchodilator, a corticosteroid inhaler, or both, make sure their medication is available no matter where they are — at school, at home, at daycare, etc.
4. Make Sure They Visit the Doctor Regularly
Take your child to the doctor at least once every six months. If they’re having frequent asthma attacks, take them in more often.
During these appointments, you can work with your child’s doctor to identify triggers, adjust medications, and figure out coping mechanisms to manage symptoms more effectively.
5. Get Everyone Involved
Finally, make sure everyone involved in your child’s care is aware of their condition. Take some time to explain to them what signs of an asthma attack look like and show them how to help your child take their medication if an attack occurs.
Some people who definitely need to be kept in the loop about your child’s asthma are teachers, daycare employees or babysitters, school principals, relatives, and siblings.
Having a child with asthma can be scary, especially if they suffer from frequent asthma attacks. But, if you keep these tips in mind, you’ll have an easier time managing their condition and keeping them safe, healthy, and happy.