Asthma is a common condition in children, affecting more than seven million children in North America. Parents, however, may not always know how to manage their child’s asthma – and too often the youngster isn’t given medication until an attack sends mother and child racing to the emergency room.
But asthma needs to be managed every day, even when your child isn’t having symptoms such as fatigue, wheezing or congestion. Daily, long-term control medications can prevent attacks and reduce the need for a rescue inhaler. If your child is using the rescue inhaler more than twice a week, you should talk with your child’s doctor about improving your their treatment. Make an appointment. You can start by identifying your child’s particular triggers – like mold, dust, car exhaust and pollen – and finding ways to minimize exposure to them.
Additionally, air pollution can cause breathing problems for anyone. But children with asthma have a tougher time dealing with it and may suffer from a flare-up.
This makes it more likely for children with asthma to need to go to the hospital. If air pollution makes your child’s asthma worse, make a note to look up the weather report every day. On days when the air pollution level is high, run the air conditioning. If your child plans to be outside, try to arrange it early in the day. The rest of the time, keep them inside. And avoid taking them places where there's a lot of traffic.
Further, if your child plays a sport that has outside practices during hot weather, talk to the coach about what your child can do to stay out of dirty air. This may mean they need to miss some practices. If your child does end up working out, inside or out, make sure they have quick-relief medicines (also called rescue or fast-acting medicines) with them at all times.
Sometimes your child must receive medical care very quickly. If any of the following symptoms happen, see your doctor immediately, go to the ER or call an ambulance:
- if your child is having constant wheezing
- if your child uses quick-relief medicines (also called rescue or fast-acting medicines) repeatedly for severe flare-up symptoms that don't go away after five or 10 minutes or return again quickly
- if there are changes in your child's color, like bluish or gray lips and fingernails
- if your child is having trouble talking
- if the areas below the ribs, between the ribs and in the neck visibly pull in during inhalation (called retractions)
- if your child's peak flow reading falls below 50 percent (which is in the red zone of the peak flow) and doesn't improve after using medicine
You can also help your child stick to a daily long-term control plan by taking a look at EPA How to Manage Your Child’s Indoor Environment; EPA Help Your Child Gain Control Over Asthma; and the American Lung Association’s Open Airways for School program. After reading those materials, make an appointment with your child’s doctor. You and your child will both breathe easier!