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How Your Child Can Live Well with Asthma

If you have a child with asthma, you know how frightening wheezing, coughing, and other asthma symptoms can be. Some children eventually outgrow asthma, but it’s usually a long-term disease that requires a long-term treatment plan.

With the right asthma action plan, most children with asthma can live full and active lives.

Asthma action plan

An asthma action plan is a strategy for treating and living with asthma that you and your child's health care provider create. Because every child is different, it’s important for you and your child to take an active role in your plan to make sure that it’s right for you. Your participation and feedback will help your doctor adjust your child's plan over time.

The three parts of an asthma action plan are: identifying and avoiding asthma triggers, taking the right type of medication when needed, and managing asthma over time.

Identifying asthma triggers

An asthma attack occurs when something—often referred to as a trigger—causes the tubes that carry air in and out of your child's lungs to become swollen and narrow. This makes breathing more difficult and causes the symptoms of an asthma attack.

Doctors don't completely understand why some children's airways are so sensitive, but sometimes triggers that cause an attack can be identified and avoided.

Common triggers include:

  • Dust, mold, pet dander, pollen, and other substances that cause an allergic reaction

  • Tobacco smoke, cold air, aerosol sprays, perfumes, and other substances that irritate the lungs

  • Medications, such as aspirin or ibuprofen

  • Some food preservatives

An asthma attack may also be triggered by an upper respiratory infection and, in some kids, asthma symptoms may be triggered by exercise.

Taking the right medication

The goal of asthma treatment for your child is to get the best asthma control with the least amount of medication. There are two basic medication strategies used when avoiding triggers is not enough: rescue or "quick relief" medication, and medication to help control symptoms over the long-term.

If your child needs medication to stop an asthma attack, he or she may be given a prescription for a rescue medication. These medications quickly open up your child's airways. In many cases these medications are given as an inhaler, and are to be used only as needed.

The other basic type of medication strategy is one that your child takes regularly (such as every day) to better control asthma, prevent asthma attacks, and reduce the need for rescue medication.

Keep in mind that your child's medication needs may change over time.

Managing your child’s asthma

To make sure your child is living well with asthma, you need to keep track of your child's symptoms, keep your home free from asthma triggers, and get your child frequent check-ups.

Here are some of the ways you can help your child manage asthma:

  • Avoid allergy triggers by using an air conditioner during pollen season; reduce mold by using a dehumidifier; and reduce dust allergy by washing bed sheets weekly in hot water and keeping stuffed animals off your child's bed. If you have pets in your home, keep them out of your child's room.

  • Learn how to use a peak flow meter to keep track of your child's asthma. Your doctor will teach you and your child to use this meter, which measures how well air is flowing in and out of your child's lungs. Keep track of your child's allergy symptoms and peak flow meter readings.

  • Learn what symptoms require a call to your doctor or an office visit. These could be lower than normal peak flow meter readings, asthma symptoms that are not responding to medications, trouble sleeping due to asthma symptoms, loss of time at school, or needing to use rescue medication more than two days a week.

Most children live a full and active life with asthma. You can help by learning as much as you can about your child's condition and by taking an active role in helping him or her manage this common childhood disease.