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Learning to Live with Childhood Asthma

Asthma is a chronic lung condition. It causes the airways to become swollen and narrowed, which interferes with the passage of air in and out of the lungs. During an asthma attack, a person may cough, wheeze, or feel tightness across the chest. This makes it hard to breathe. If an attack becomes severe, the person may have to go to the hospital. If you have a child with asthma, you know how hard it is to watch your child struggle during an asthma attack.

Make a plan

If your child has asthma, you can take steps to ensure that he or she leads an active, normal life. First, work closely with your child's doctor on an asthma action plan. Your child's doctor will prescribe medications to help control asthma symptoms. The doctor will show you and your child how these medicines work and when to use them. Knowing how to use medications correctly is vital to controlling attacks. You should review the action plan at least yearly with your doctor. 

The two types of medicine used to control asthma are reliever and controller medications. Reliever medications ease an asthma attack quickly by relaxing the muscles around the airways. This makes it easier to breathe. You can help prevent your child from having an attack by giving reliever medication at the first sign of symptoms.

Unlike reliever medications, controller medications are usually taken every day. Controller medications prevent airways from swelling so that attacks occur less often or not at all. Controller medicines need to be given even when your child is feeling well and having no asthma symptoms. Feeling good is actually a sign that the controller medicine is doing its job. 

Many people with asthma use a peak-flow meter to measure how well air flows in and out of their lungs. This device can help keep track of variations from day to day. It can tell if airways are narrowing hours and sometimes days before your child has symptoms. A peak-flow meter can help you and your child do the following:

  • Decide when to increase or stop taking rescue medications

  • Determine if symptoms are getting better or worse

  • Monitor how well your asthma management plan is working

  • Identify things that trigger attacks

Every child responds differently to medications, so work closely with your child's doctor to find a plan that works best for your child.

The ABCs of asthma

You should learn all you can about your child's asthma and then teach your child. Every child has different asthma triggers. Learning to identify and avoid these triggers can help you and your child manage asthma symptoms.

Below is a list of asthma triggers and suggestions for how to reduce your child's exposure to them:

  • Tobacco smoke. Do not allow smoking in your home or anywhere around your child.

  • Animal dander. It's best not to have pets with fur or feathers. At the very least, keep animals out of your child's bedroom and vacuum often.

  • Cockroach droppings. Use traps to keep roaches out of your house. Keep food out of your child's bedroom.

  • Dust mites. Dust mites live in cloth or carpet. Use a dustproof cover on your child's mattress and pillow. Wash sheets and blankets once a week in hot water. Keep stuffed toys out of your child's bedroom. Remove carpets.

  • Mold. Clean moldy surfaces with bleach.

  • Pollen. Try to keep your child inside when pollen counts are high.

When buying a home, consider looking for baseboard or radiant heating to decrease mold and dust mite exposure. 

Keep kids active

Although exercise can bring on asthma, it is one trigger your child shouldn't avoid. Exercise is very important for a child with asthma.

Your child can learn to monitor his or her asthma. For example, your child can learn to sit out an activity when symptoms flare up. Using an inhaler before exercising can also help keep asthma under control.

Please consult your doctor with any questions or concerns you may have regarding this condition. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Bass, Pat F. III, MD, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 6/30/2013
© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.