Sharing Is Caring… Never Mind: Kids, Germs and Asthma

It’s a cycle: every year, a few weeks into school starting (and, often again a few weeks after Winter Break), some sort of virus or five starts circulating elementary school classrooms just about everywhere. With older and younger siblings, and parents all going different places throughout their days, these germs can spread fast. When you have a little one with asthma, though, having a sick kid in the house is rarely a normal experience, and often won’t simply be solved just by letting your kid lay around on the couch for a few days. Sometimes, kids are too good at sharing for their own good!

Dealing with illnesses in kids with asthma is much the same as for adults with asthma, but, you have to know what to look for since kids aren’t as good at communicating how they are feeling. Kids with asthma can also get hit harder than adults because their airways are smaller and narrower, to begin with. When a common cold combines with asthma, things can escalate quickly, so it is important to consult with your doctor ahead of time to have a plan in place.

Some other tips to follow if you’ve got a sick kid with asthma:

  • Call the doctor if you are concerned. If asthma symptoms are bad, extra rescue medicine might be given regularly, such as every 4 hours. Prednisone may also be needed—depending on your doctor, and how often your kid needs it, sometimes your doctor will allow you to have a supply on hand so that you can call for advice and start steroids, rather than needing to go into the office.
  • Schedule rescue meds if instructed. For me, this is something that can make a huge difference—no matter how I feel, I take my inhaler or do a nebulizer treatment every 4 hours for 48 to 72 hours.
  • Keep kids doing quiet, sedentary activities. Even if they’re sick, kids still usually have a decent amount of energy. Drawing, watching TV or movies, playing certain video games, reading, or listening to music are all good, low-energy activities to keep kids occupied while resting.
  • Fluids. I am like a kid in that it can be incredibly hard for me to drink enough when I’m sick. Kids just might not be interested—keep things interesting drink wise to help keep the mucus in their lungs and sinuses thinner. Popsicles/freeze pops, slushy drinks, Kool-Aid and juice are all good options. Especially if kids are not eating much, don’t be too concerned about the extra sugar.
  • Be cautious with over the counter meds. Ask your child’s doctor or pharmacist which cold medicines are safe for kids with asthma. Only specific types of cough syrups should be used in kids with asthma if they are used at all.
  • Keep your child’s upper body propped up. Keeping the head and shoulders elevated can make it a lot easier to breathe when you’re sick—get your pillow mountain on so that rest might come a little easier.
  • Don’t hesitate to get extra help. If you are concerned that your child is getting worse, or just not improving in a few days, or is in need of emergency care, call your doctor and/or visit your local emergency department or urgent care center. It is better to go in proactively instead of waiting too long, which can make the work that needs to be done at the hospital harder.

Kids with asthma may get sicker than other kids, and it may take them longer to recover from even typical or “routine” illnesses. I hope that our community will share their best tips for taking care of kids with asthma when they are sick in the comments!

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