Teaching Your Child About Asthma
This article has been reviewed by Thanai Pongdee, MD, FAAAAI
If your child has been diagnosed with asthma, you may feel like you are the only one who can protect him or her.
Depending on your child’s age, understanding his or her condition is one of the first steps toward asthma control and your peace of mind. But are you ready to explain this complex disease in terms that your child can understand?
Keep It Simple for Young Children
Use language that is appropriate for your child’s age to describe what happens when asthma flares-up. Try to avoid medical terminology and details that will confuse a young child. Stick to the basic information at first. This includes making your child aware of what triggers symptoms and giving very basic understanding of what happens to cause the symptoms. Visit Just for Kids for story books, games and puzzles that explain asthma in terms your child can understand.
Medication management is not necessarily an issue with young children, as it is your responsibility as a caregiver to make certain you give your child medication as prescribed. Set a routine so it’s easy to remember when these medications should be taken. Practice with a nebulizer, peak flow meter and spacer so that your child understands how each device helps manage asthma.
Talking to Adolescents and Teens
Effective self-management is the goal when talking with your older child about asthma. It is sometimes difficult to make certain that adolescents continue taking their long-acting medications as prescribed and avoiding triggers, but both are essential for successful asthma control. That is why it is important for older children and teens to understand what can or will happen if they don't take their medications every day. Explain that they can be healthy enough to participate in just about all of the activities their friends do, but getting and staying healthy means taking their medication as prescribed.
Many teens are curious about how they might have acquired their asthma. This website offers plenty of asthma articles as well as illustrative diagrams.
Prepare for an Emergency
No matter how many precautions you take, there’s always a chance that your child, adolescent or teen will experience asthma symptoms while you are not around. When that happens – he or she needs to know what to do – and so do the people around him or her.
For youngsters, talk to your child’s teachers, coaches, babysitters and the parents of friends so they can recognize asthma symptoms and know how to respond. Give caregivers a copy of your child’s Asthma Action Plan to reference in case of an emergency. Make sure your child understands the importance of medications and always has his or her rescue inhaler at-hand. Explain the right times and the right way to use the rescue medication. Write “RESCUE” or “911” on the side of the inhaler to make it easy to identify in an emergency.
For adolescents and teens, reminders about carrying a rescue inhaler may be useful.