Steps to Take When Your Child is Diagnosed with Asthma
Learning your child has asthma can be frightening for those unfamiliar with the condition. There’s no need to panic though. Some lifestyle changes will certainly be required, but overall asthma is manageable, and with the right information and medication you can keep flare-ups to a minimum. Below are some practical steps to take to ensure you keep your child’s asthma under control.
What is asthma?
Asthma is a chronic (long-term) respiratory condition that inflames and narrows the airways, making breathing difficult. It’s often linked to allergic reaction or other forms of hypersensitivity; to a change in the weather, colds and flus, dust mites or tobacco. Asthmatics experience attacks of spasm in the bronchi of the lungs, resulting in chest tightness, shortness of breath and wheezing. It’s managed with medicines – usually two kinds, one quick-relief (inhaler) and the other a long-term control for the internal symptoms.
Steps to take following diagnosis…
Speak to your GP
Your doctor can help you figure out what’s triggering your child’s asthma, and will be able to let you know when it’s time to change medicines, or if emergency assistance is required.
Remove irritants from home
Allergens like pollen, dust mites, mould and pet hair can trigger asthma attacks, as can irritants in the air like smoke and chemical fumes. Keep these at bay as much as possible – hoover carpets regularly, and ensure there’s no smoking in the house. Freezing new soft toys for 24 hours will prevent them from gathering dust – wash them regularly above 50 degrees too. If you’ve a pet, limit their access to the house, don’t allow them on furniture and always keep them out of your child’s room.
Learn to recognise your child’s early warning signs (EWS)
Start to keep a diary of when your child has asthma attacks, you’ll come to be familiar with your child’s EWS (early warning signs of an attack). These can include changes in mood and appearance, or they may just tell you they ‘feel funny’.
Tools like a peak flow meter can be useful for monitoring asthmatics’ airways. This handheld instrument is blown into, and the reading lets you know how open the airways are – a low reading indicates that they’ve become narrowed. Chat to your doctor about this if you think it would come in handy.
Include your child in the learning process
The more your child understands about his or her condition, the better. Ensure they know how important it is to always carry their inhaler; often kids (and adults!) can take an overly relaxed attitude towards it. Explain to them in easily understandable language what’s happening when their breathing restricts. This will make it less frightening, as well as help them anticipate an attack.
Encourage them to get active
Physical activity gives the lungs a workout and reduces symptoms, so encourage your child to get active. Depending on the severity of their asthma, they may be initially advised to take their inhaler 20 minutes before exercising, but increased fitness will in fact strengthen the lungs and lower dependency on it. Ask your doctor what level of activity would suit your child.