|Give your child’s asthma the runaround|
Reading the signs
Wondering how to tell asthma from an allergy or a cold? Doctors advise watching for these signs:
- repeated coughing that’s worse at night
- coughing that produces clear or white mucus
- wheezing or struggling to breathe
- inability to keep pace with playmates
- complaints about chest pain or tightness
- sweating and/or rapid pulse
Time was when children with asthma could only dream of romping on the playground or competing in sports like other kids. Today, thanks to effective medicines and a better understanding of this chronic disease, almost all of the country’s 6 million asthmatic youngsters can enjoy an active life—provided they’re careful and know their limits.
Because asthma is chronic, controlling it requires an ongoing care plan. To be successful, your child must stick to the plan strictly both at home and at school. That means never missing a dose of medicine, staying far away from triggers and recognizing the signs of an impending attack.
Be on the lookout
Triggers can vary with the seasons, or come and go as the child grows up. Teach your child to identify them at an early age so he or she can self-manage asthma.
- Colds and flu are the number-one triggers in children, causing up to 85 percent of all attacks. Teach your youngster the importance of washing his or her hands, avoiding other kids with colds and using paper cups for liquids. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends annual flu shots for asthmatic kids.
- Pollen, dust mites, animal dander, molds, certain foods, aspirin or other medications are common asthma triggers. Use simple show-and-tell techniques (cut out pictures from magazines, for instance) to point out examples of what to avoid: cats and dogs, milk and dairy products, grass clippings and leaves.
- Airborne irritants such as tobacco smoke, air fresheners, aerosol sprays, paint fumes, hairspray and perfume also cause attacks. Keep these items to a minimum in your home. And if you smoke, make every effort to quit for your child’s sake.
- Overdoing it, also known as just being a kid, commonly leads to asthma attacks. Work closely with your child so he or she can recognize limits while playing soccer or some other intense sport.
Prevention and parents
There are lots of other ways you can help your child sidestep household triggers:
- Work with your doctor to develop an age-appropriate care strategy.
- Don’t use the fireplace.
- Use polyester-filled pillows and comforters, not feather or down.
- Buy mite-proof, zippered mattress and pillow sacks.
- Vacuum bedcovers and wash bedsheets in hot water weekly.
- Keep furniture dusted, floors vacuumed and window coverings clean.
- Ban carpeting, pets, upholstered furniture or dust-trapping fixtures from your child’s bedroom.
- Don’t humidify indoor air.
- Change furnace filters monthly.
- Avoid wallpaper and carpet in bathrooms—they’re havens for mold.
- Don’t let your child mow grass or rake leaves.
- After playing outside, have your child bathe and change clothes.
It’s true: A well-prepared asthmatic child can join play groups or sports teams with little to fear. Remind your child that asthmatic kids can be superstars, too—in fact, 10 percent of the 1996 U.S. Olympic team had asthma.
© 2013 Dowden Health Media