A Guide to Helping Kids With Asthma

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Wheezing. Coughing. Inability to breathe. Asthma can be a very scary disease, especially when it affects children. While it’s not entirely understood just what causes asthma, it’s believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Fortunately, it is possible to live a full healthy life with asthma. Some of the world’s best athletes and entertainers are even asthmatic. If your child develops asthma, here are some things you can do to help them live a full, healthy, normal life.

“Many different things cause asthma, and each child is different. Some children develop asthma in infancy, others only develop asthma when they are close to teenage years. Some children, but not all, can outgrow their asthma as they get older.”

-Nadia Lynn Krupp, MD, Riley at IU Health

Take the Proper Medications

When a child is diagnosed with asthma, your doctor will prescribe medications to help him or her keep asthma under control. In many instances, the doctor will prescribe a “controller” medication that your child will need to take once or twice a day, every day. Controller medications are daily inhalers to help keep asthma symptoms (coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath) from occurring often. For those times when your child does have asthma symptoms, you will also have a “quick relief” inhaler (also called a “rescue” inhaler) prescribed by your child’s doctor. If a child is having bad asthma symptoms or an asthma attack, make sure to use the quick relief rescue inhaler as soon as possible. It is essential that your child always has a quick relief inhaler available, in case asthma symptoms come on suddenly. If a quick relief inhaler is not effective, you must be prepared to take your child to the hospital immediately.

“The daily controller medications that we use today for asthma are very effective, and are safe even for children to use for years if needed. Regular doctor visits allow us to make sure your child is on the lowest doses needed to keep asthma under control. Even with well controlled asthma, though, the adults taking care of the child must know the signs of an asthma flare, and how to respond quickly. If those early signs are not acted on, an asthma flare can get very bad very fast.”

-Nadia Lynn Krupp, MD, Riley at IU Health

Understand the Triggers of Asthma

Every child with asthma is different, but some common triggers for an asthma attack are cold air, allergens (pollen, dust, mold, animal dander, cockroaches), and airway irritants (smoke of any kind, particles in the air, perfumes, strong smells or fumes). If possible, try to avoid these triggers as much as possible. If your child is going to be in a situation where they will be around a trigger, make sure they have their quick relief inhaler handy to deal with a potential attack. Some children with asthma have coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath with physical activity, but exercise is very important to keep the lungs and the rest of the body healthy. For some children, it may be helpful to use a quick relief inhaler immediately before engaging in youth sports or other intense physical activity. For all children, keeping them active and moving is important.

Talking to Your Child About Asthma

Being diagnosed with asthma can be difficult for a child, and stressful for the family. They may feel like they are different and that they will not live a normal life. This is simply not the case. Most asthmatics are able to keep their asthma under control with proper lifestyle choices, medication, and regular visits to the doctor. With good asthma control, children can engage in just about any activity they like. It may be helpful to provide your child a list of successful asthmatic athletes, or actors to show him or her that even if they’re asthmatic, the possibilities of their life are still limitless.

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