Having a child with asthma can be exhausting, just from the amount of worry it entails. Kids may not be aware of how they’re feeling when running around and having fun, and might not know how to articulate the symptoms they have. As a parent, you do your best to watch and be alert, but you can’t see everything.
Your child’s asthma doesn’t have to send you into panic, though. Whether your child is newly diagnosed or is starting a new school, you’ll want to have an up-to-date, comprehensive asthma plan. Here’s how to work with your child and her other caregivers to manage and control the asthma, so that everyone can breathe a little easier.
Be sure to understand the doctor’s orders
A pediatrician will prescribe an appropriate asthma medication regimen based on your child’s asthma severity and age. Whether this involves a child-friendly nebulizer (breathing machine) or metered-dose inhaler, make sure you understand how to use it before leaving the office. You are the first line of defense against your child’s asthma, and regular medications are key to preventing symptoms, so understanding them is the first step.
It’s possible—especially if your child is newly diagnosed—that a few things went over your head at the pediatrician’s office. If this is the case, don’t worry. The upside to being affected by such a common disease is that resources are numerous and available upon request. The Internet is full of resources for asthmatics, and your pediatrician’s office can also direct you to educational materials and community resources near you.
Develop an action plan
Every asthmatic needs an action plan, and this is especially true for children. It can be tough to talk about worst-case scenarios, but you may just thank yourself for doing so down the road. Prepare a written document that you can keep at home and also copy to distribute to adults who care for your child.
This document should include known asthma triggers unique to your child, routine asthma symptoms (such as wheezing) that don’t signal an attack and names and doses of all your child’s asthma medications. Most importantly, it should have clearly written steps indicating what to do during an asthma attack and emergency contact information in case of an asthma emergency.
Talk with your child about asthma
Once you’re educated on childhood asthma and have an asthma action plan in writing, it’s time to talk to your child. Of course, she knows she’s got something called asthma and takes medicine for it, but education about the disease and what to do in an emergency if you’re not there is essential. You know your child better than anyone, so talk with her to the extent you feel she understands, and welcome questions. Taking the fear out of asthma will help her take some control of the disease, so you can manage it together.
If your child is old enough, ask if she wants to be involved in talking to teachers, grandparents and other adults about her asthma. The more it’s discussed among trusted adults, the less scary it will seem for your little one and the more she will feel like everyone is on her team. This means less stress for you both, which is great, since stress is a known asthma trigger.
Make sure school is a safe zone
Whether it’s day care, a preschool, elementary school or higher, you’ll want to make sure your child’s daytime caregivers have an asthma plan. If her school isn’t already a member of the American Lung Association’s Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative, encourage school administrators to join. Member schools are committed to keeping allergens and asthma triggers to a minimum, so that sensitive kids are safer and miss school less often.
Even if your child’s school is already part of the initiative to keep a safe environment for asthmatics, you should still ask questions. Do your child’s main teachers know about asthma and how to help her in case of an attack? How does the school minimize allergens and airborne particles? Does the school have an asthma action plan of its own? All are important questions you can and should ask during enrollment. It’s all about keeping your kiddo safe, healthy and happy in the long run.
Lacie Glover writes for NerdWallet Health, a website that empowers consumers to find high quality, affordable health care and insurance.