In developed nations, asthma is the most common chronic disease among children, with 1 in 11 UK children currently receiving treatment. Numerous factors may contribute to this, but one thing’s for sure: while this disease is quite manageable in most circumstances, with sufferers able to live a normal life, it’s something that can become dangerous if you’re not well prepared. Or rather, it can be dangerous for your child if you don’t prepare them for times when you might not be present to help deal with the condition.
Thankfully, most asthma treatments aren’t complicated, but nor are they as simple as taking medication – so all children affected should know when and how to use them to stay one step ahead of the condition. Here are some general tips to help your child manage their asthma.
Know the warning signs
If an asthma attack is incoming, there are certain signs you can look out for. These include becoming too breathless to do things like speaking, sleeping or eating normally; wheezing and/or coughing; feeling unable to catch your breath even during rest periods; or stomach aches (a common complaint in children). Keeping these signs in mind is crucial for knowing when you should treat the condition before it gets worse.
A lot of people, even adults, may get anxious if they feel an asthma attack coming. It is key that you ensure your child knows how to deal with anxiety surrounding this condition. Not only could this lessen the severity of an attack, remaining calm when they feel symptoms also means they’ll be able to treat themselves effectively using other means.
A good method for inducing calmness is learning to control breathing as best you can – keeping slow, steady breaths can help counteract the quick, short breathing that is characteristic of an attack. There are other mindful tactics that you can develop with your child to help them relax during moments of panic or stress; this may include closing their eyes and imagining they’re somewhere else, or thinking of their favorite toy. As you know them better than anyone, you’re naturally best placed to guide them. In the short term, remaining calm can be as good as any asthma treatment.
Have an action plan
This can be good not only for sufferers, but for letting others know how to help your child with their asthma when you aren’t with them, such as when they are away on a school trip. An action plan is something your doctor will be able to help you with – it involves outlining which medicines might need to be taken and when, what to do if your asthma is getting worse, and what immediate action to take if you’re having an attack. You can give copies of this to friends, teachers, and family. Remember to keep one for yourself around the house too – it can be helpful in the heat of the moment if your mind suddenly goes blank.
Inhalers and medication
Inhalers tend to be the most common treatment for asthma. They’re easy to use for children, but even so, it’s good to go over the process with them and make sure they know how to use it properly. Inhalers come in many different forms (see this NHS infographic for more information), but broadly fall into three categories: reliever inhalers (used for easing symptoms), preventer inhalers (recommended for those who have attacks often), and a combination of both. If you notice your child’s asthma getting worse, you should consider talking to your GP about an additional inhaler.
If an inhaler alone isn’t enough to control the condition, your child may need to take oral medication. This can come in the form of tablets, syrup, or powder to be taken daily. It might be beneficial for your child to know the routine of taking this medication themselves, for when they are staying at a friend’s house or on a trip.
As you can see, asthma is a very manageable condition if you’re well prepared for it, and won’t prevent your child from living a normal, healthy life. These are some general tips, but as always, remember to check with a doctor if you’re unsure about anything.