Living with Asthma
Asthma affects not only the child but the entire family. For children with mild asthma, the impact on the family may be minimal. In some cases, however, the family may experience many difficulties. Healthy brothers and sisters of asthmatic children may get upset or jealous of the attention paid to the child with asthma. They may resent limitations in the home, such as not being able to have pets. Professional counseling may help families cope with these difficulties.
Asthma can be an expensive problem to deal with, in terms of clinic visits, medications, emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and parents missing work. If you cannot afford health clinic visits or medicine, ask for help. In many places there are programs that can help you get care for your child.
Many parents find it difficult to go out evenings or weekends because of difficulty finding a baby-sitter. Problems may arise when planning vacations because of the need to be near a medical facility. Your nurse or social worker may be able to help you plan ways to resume your social life safely.
Asthma is the number one cause of absences from school. Children who miss school may fall behind in their studies and can have a difficult time catching up. Many days of school can be missed because children have mild episodes in school and they are sent home. Much of this kind of asthma can be handled at the school by the teacher, school nurse, or by the child, if they are properly trained and have the appropriate medication with them. The school will need you to give them written permission and directions for giving your child medicine at school. They cannot refuse to give the medicine if you give them this written permission.
Your health care provider will be happy to send a letter to your child’s school with instructions for medications. You can help the teacher understand by talking with them about your child’s triggers and early warning signs. The teacher can watch for signs of illness or behavior changes. Teachers are usually glad that you want to know how your child is doing in school and how to reach you if your child develops asthma symptoms in school or has side effects from the medications. Teachers are not necessarily knowledgeable about asthma, so we suggest you share education materials about asthma with your child’s teacher.
In 2001, a statute was adopted by the Florida Senate allowing children to carry their inhalers in school with the approval of their parents and physician. More details about the statute can be found at the Florida Senate website.
The need for frequent emergency room visits can be very disruptive to a family. Whenever possible, asthma episodes should be managed at home. This is often possible with proper instruction and available medication, plus good communication with your health care provider. Being aware of early warning signs and starting treatment early can minimize emergency room visits. Your health care team can help to develop a plan of care so that you know what to do and when to call your health care provider. It is important to call your health care provider for instructions when the medicine you have isn’t working.
Honor your partnership with your health care provider. Successful asthma management requires a partnership between the health care team and the patient. Bring them all your problems, questions, observations, worries, etc. so treatment can be adjusted to help your child feel well.
Although exercise is a common asthma trigger, this is not necessarily a reason for avoiding athletics. Medications taken before exercise can usually block asthma symptoms. Physical education instructors and coaches do not always understand the special needs of asthmatic children. A phone call or a letter from your health care provider which explains exercise-induced asthma may be helpful.
Parents are often afraid to punish their child with asthma for fear of causing an episode. This allows the child to become very manipulative and controlling of parents. While it is true that children who are upset by restric¬tions may wheeze, the harm done by always letting them have their own way because they have asthma is much greater than that caused by the discipline, even if wheezing is triggered. In addition, if there are other children in the family, they may resent the asthmatic child for receiving special treatment from parents.
This is one of the most important aspects of the care of the asthmatic child. The child should be as independent as age and maturity level will allow. Increased self-reliance will improve self-image. Older children should have an understanding about what asthma is, and know their medications, treatments, and what to do in an episode. Older children can also be responsible for routine daily medications. Using pill boxes that have a space for each day of the week or reminder posters or calendars are ways to help children be responsible for their own medications. Asthmatic children already may see themselves as helpless, weak, and a burden on their family. It is very important to make them as independent as possible in their care.
It is always important for parents to supervise their child’s care to be sure the child understands necessary care and is taking it seriously.