Empowering Your Children With Asthma: Teach Them What They Need to Know
As a parent of a child who has asthma, it's important to teach your child about his or her disease. When kids are very young, they may not always understand what asthma is or why they feel the way they do. However, you can get them started early with learning about asthma. And this will enable them to better communicate with you, teachers and others when symptoms do crop up. It will also set them up for successful self-care as they grow. In short, you'll be empowering them to care for their own health and take charge of their asthma.
Teach your child about asthma
When kids are young, you'll need to keep it simple. First off, you'll need to explain to them that asthma makes it hard for them to breathe sometimes. And when that happens, they need to let someone know right away, so they can get help with feeling better.
Second, they need to know what the signs are that asthma control is slipping. Teach them that when they start coughing a lot or having trouble catching their breath, these are signs of asthma. They might also notice a whistling noise, or wheezing when they breathe in or out.
Chest tightness is harder to describe. When I was a child, I used to describe it as a chest ache, like a stomach ache but in my chest. I didn't know how else to describe it. And I don't think anyone ever caught on to the fact that it was a symptom of asthma, even though I also frequently experienced wheezing. My point is that parents need to be diligent about how your child talks about what he or she is feeling. They might not have the words to accurately describe a symptom.
Of course, you should also teach them about any medication the doctor may prescribe. Don't forget to show them how to use it too, whether it's in oral, inhaler or nebulizer form.
And finally, try to figure out what their asthma and/or allergy triggers are. Then, make sure your child knows what they are too. Give them tips on where the triggers might be hiding in different environments:
- Field trips
- Friends' homes
Teach them how to communicate their needs
As they grow, you can teach them about their Asthma Action Plan. Make sure they know how to identify their green, yellow and red zones and what actions to take in each. You'll want to ensure that they know when to ask for help.
You can even help them practice what to say to adults when they start to have asthma symptoms.
Understanding air quality and what that means for their asthma control is also a key factor to be taught.
You can find some great resources to help kids at various ages at this page on the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America website. There are videos, mobile apps, printable games, and activity sheets and much more.
Anticipate the Resistance
Kids don't like to be different, especially once they are in school. The silver lining to the fact that so many kids have asthma these days is that they probably won't feel that different from many of their classmates. Nearly 1 out of every 10 kids has asthma these days, so in a class of 30, your child may have 1 or 2 other classmates with asthma.1 Also, asthma is the leading cause of chronic illness and missed school days in children, so it's pretty routine.2
Still, your school-age child may not like the idea of taking medication or using a nebulizer. He or she might not want to pay attention to asthma symptoms that arise during school hours until they are too severe to ignore. That can be dangerous, so be sure to talk with your child about the importance of addressing symptoms right away. You may also want to plan a meeting with the school nurse and your child's teacher to go over the Asthma Action Plan and arrange for any medication use.
Asthma in children can usually be managed successfully so that it doesn't interfere greatly with everyday life. Both you and your child play a role in making that happen. Your child should be able to rely on you, as the parent, to be the primary caregiver. But, you can help them take control of their own bodies and health by teaching them how they can best manage their asthma.
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