Asthma is one of the most common chronic conditions in childhood. There are dozens if not hundreds of websites teaching people about asthma as a disease process and the various treatments available. Here's what you can do to help your child with asthma. It is in no way a comprehensive discussion, but it will give you a good start in allowing your child to keep his asthma under control.
1. KNOW WHAT YOUR CHILD'S ASTHMA ATTACK LOOKS LIKE. Not all wheezing is asthma and conversely not all asthma attacks have wheezing spells. Common signs and symptoms are:
Dry cough (usually at night)
Difficulty taking breaths/retractions (skin between ribs getting sucked in with each breath)
Complaints of chest tightness
Unable to speak in full sentences due to difficulty breathing (not a good sign and should be seen by a doctor quickly)
2. KNOW WHAT TRIGGERS YOUR CHILD'S ASTHMA. Each person has specific things that may cause them to have an asthma attack. If you know what your child's triggers are, you can make steps to avoid them.
Cigarettes (not just smoking near the child, but actually having clothing / furniture that still has the smell of cigarettes can cause this)
Dust / dust mites (avoid anything that collects a lot of dust--carpets, curtains, stuffed toys, and so on)
Exercise (this does not mean they shouldn't exercise, talk to your doctor about it)
A cold or infection
Strong perfumes / odors
3. WORK WITH YOUR DOCTOR TOWARD ASTHMA TREATMENT GOALS.
He should not be using his rescue inhaler more than twice a week in a month's time.
He should not be getting night time symptoms (difficulty sleeping due to a cough) more than twice a month.
Ask your doctor about an "ASTHMA ACTION PLAN" (this is a written plan especially for your child with a list of specific signs, triggers, and treatment options).
Ask your doctor about a peak flow meter for older children.
4. EMPOWER YOUR CHILD TO RECOGNIZE HIS OWN SYMPTOMS AND TRIGGERS. The above steps are a good start to battling asthma and taking control of it. Remember that your doctor's treatment won't work if you don't implement his suggestions. And if your child is old enough, make sure you include your child in treating his condition.
About the Author: Rosanne Sugay, M.D., Internist and Pediatrician, University Medical Center, Las Vegas , Nevada