Asthma is the most common chronic lung disease in children. In the US, it affects about 6 million children or about one in every 12 children.
Breathing is key to life, obviously, so asthma can make life very hard. It can make going for a walk outside feel very hard. It leads not just to visits with the doctor or to the emergency room, and to hospitalizations, but also to missed school, missed work for parents, missed events, and missed activities.
The good news is that asthma is very treatable. If parents, children, and doctors work together, a child with asthma can lead a healthy, normal life. Here’s what you need to know and do.
Know your child’s symptoms
Wheezing is definitely a symptom of asthma, but a dry persistent cough can be as well (for some children, this occurs mostly at night).
Watch for signs that a child is working harder to breathe. One sign is skin tugging inward between, on top of, or below the ribs. Difficulty talking in long sentences is another sign of this.
Some children with exercise-induced asthma avoid exercise; if your child is choosing to be less active, talk to them about why.
Know your child’s triggers
There are many different triggers for asthma, including:
- Upper respiratory infections, like the common cold. COVID falls into this category, which is why children with asthma should be vaccinated against COVID.
- Allergies, such as
- outdoor allergens like pollen, which are often worse in the spring and fall
- indoor allergens like dust mites or mold
- pet dander.
- Exercise. Some children will struggle with even mild exercise, while others only have trouble with vigorous exercise or exercising when there are other triggers too (like a cold or allergies).
- Weather changes, especially in colder weather. Some children can be triggered by going into a cold, air-conditioned room.
- Stress. Stress affects our bodies in multiple ways, and in some people, it can trigger their asthma or make it worse.
Understand your child’s medications
Several kinds of medicines are used to treat asthma, including:
- Bronchodilators. Examples are albuterol, levalbuterol, formoterol, or ipratropium. Known as “rescue medications,” these are inhaled and work by opening up the airways. They are given through metered-dose inhalers or a nebulizer machine. They are used when a person is experiencing symptoms.
- Inhaled steroids. These work by decreasing inflammation in the lungs and making them less likely to react to triggers. They are “controller medications” given regularly to prevent symptoms.
- Combined inhalers. These have both an inhaled steroid and a long-acting bronchodilator. They are very useful for patients with more difficult asthma. Sometimes they are used in SMART (Single Maintenance And Reliever Therapy), in which the same inhaler is used for both rescue and control.
- Oral or injected steroids. These are generally used when someone has a bad asthma attack, but some people need to take them regularly to prevent attacks.
- Allergy medications. Medicines like loratadine, cetirizine, or montelukast can be very helpful when there is an allergic component to asthma.
Some people with severe asthma need other treatments, such as allergy shots for severe allergies, or medications like dupilumab that work in the body to fight inflammation. This is far less common.
Use medication correctly
- Sometimes medications and medication regimens can be confusing. That’s why everyone with asthma should have a written Asthma Action Plan that spells out exactly what they should do and when.
- If your child uses an inhaler, make sure that they are doing it right! For most inhalers, it’s important to use a spacer, which is a tube that attaches to the inhaler and helps to ensure that the medication gets into the lungs and not just the mouth or surrounding air.
- If you have any questions about anything your child is prescribed, call your doctor.
Meet with your doctor regularly
If your child’s asthma is anything more than very mild (a few mild attacks a year), you need to check in more frequently than at the yearly checkup. Extra check-ins give you a chance to talk to your doctor about how things are going — and give your doctor a chance to tweak your child’s regimen so that your child can live the healthiest, happiest life possible.
Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren
2 Corinthians 13:9 For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong; this we also pray for, that you be made complete.
Colossians 1:28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.
Colossians 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.
2 Corinthians 10:15-16 not boasting beyond our measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but with the hope that as your faith grows, we will be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you, so as to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you, and not to boast in what has been accomplished in the sphere of another.
2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater;
2 Peter 3:18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
Ephesians 1:17-18 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
Ephesians 3:16-19 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, read more
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