One in 11 children suffer from asthma and a child is taken to hospital every 18 minutes because of its symptoms.
But just because your child has been diagnosed with asthma doesn’t mean they can’t lead a perfectly normal, healthy and socially active life. Find out how you can manage the condition to keep them safe and happy.
Managing asthma during school hours
You can’t be with them every minute of the day, so it’s important that you talk with your child’s teacher to make sure that everyone who will be caring for your child at school – from the nurse to the PE teacher – knows about their condition. Share your asthma action plan with all of them.
It’s also important that your child understands what it means to have asthma, how to spot a flare-up coming on and what they need to do if they have an asthma attack.
If they’re really young it can be a struggle to make them understand their condition without scaring them so you might want to read a children’s book together which explains it to them. Abby’s Asthma and the Big Race by Theresa Martin Golding or I Have Asthma by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos are both popular with parents and children coping with asthma.
Have an asthma action plan
A lot of parents find that having an action plan really helps them manage and keep track of their child’s asthma. This will collate everything related to their condition, from what medicines they take (and when they take them), what triggers symptoms and what to do if an attack happens. You can work with a template designed by the charity Asthma UK if you’re not sure where to start.
Know their triggers
Their GP’s allergy test may have thrown some light on what might trigger their symptoms, but it’s crucial that you keep an eye out for other causes too. Keeping a diary could help you spot a connection between their flare-ups and something in their lifestyle.
Common triggers include:
- Physical exercise
- Allergens (pollen, dust mites and animal fur)
- Airborne irritants (air freshener, cigarette smoke, pollution)
- Mould or damp in the house
- Chest infects brought on by a cold
- Food allergies
- Emotional factors (being stressed or laughing too heartily)
- Sudden changes in the weather
Once you know your child’s triggers you can look at how to avoid them while letting them lead their lives.
If you or anyone in your house smokes, try to avoid lighting up anywhere near your asthmatic child as this could make their symptoms worse. Asthma-related hospital admissions have gone down since the ban on smoking indoors was introduced.
Exercise is an important part of any healthy child’s life, and they should be able to take part in team sports and hobbies just like anyone else. If they warm up and cool down before and after exerting themselves and learn to breathe through their noses, they should be fine.
But it’s also wise for them to carry an inhaler just in case. If your child does experience asthmatic symptoms after playing sport and often has trouble breathing, speak to your GP to discuss what can be done.
Spot a flare-up
The sooner you can detect the early warning signs of a flare-up in their symptoms, the better. Look out for wheezing, restless sleep, a lot of throat clearing, tightness in the chest, coughing that’s not caused by a cold and fast or irregular breathing.
Even if you both do everything by the book, avoiding triggers and taking medicines, they may still have an asthma attack. It’s important you both know how to spot the symptoms and what to do.
Try to stay calm for both your sakes, encourage them to take a few puffs of their inhaler, sit down and take a few steady, relaxed breaths. If this doesn’t work, call an ambulance or drive them to A&E.