Any parent of an asthmatic child sometimes feels helpless. Not being able to breathe sufficiently is a scary feeling for a child...and a parent. Yet, asthma need not be a life sentence and kids don't have to miss out on fun. According to Jo Frost, host and parenting expert of the popular TV show, SuperNanny, communication is key. An asthma sufferer herself since age five, Frost knows firsthand the difficulties of growing up with the disease. "It can be very scary. However, through continuous conversation with my parents, keeping up with pediatrician visits, and advised medical care, I was able to enjoy a childhood like any other kid. I was very active in sports. I ran and swam. My parents led by example by being very interactive with me," says Frost.
Frost has partnered with the Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA) and Merck & Co., Inc., to provide parents with useful, interactive tools for dealing with asthma through a new website, www.Time2TalkAsthma.com. While asthma is a chronic condition that cannot be cured, it can be controlled. "Time2TalkAsthma.com offers a whole load of information that can be downloaded to empower parents by giving them more knowledge so they can manage asthma by not being passive about it, but proactive," Frost explains. She firmly believes that managing asthma is a group effort that should involve parents, healthcare professionals, teachers, childcare workers...and the child.
The more openly parents talk to their children about asthma, the better prepared they will be to help control it, and actively take part in their own well-being. Frost advises parents to talk with their kids early on about their condition, help them recognize symptoms and triggers, and identify when they might need to reach for a nebulizer or inhaler. It's also important that anyone who watches your child have the same knowledge and know ahead of time what signs to look out for, such as fast talking or labored breathing. Likewise, keep medications and devices easily accessible and make sure all family members and caregivers know where they are at all times.
At school, Frost advises parents to keep teachers in the loop. Set up appointments at the beginning of the school year with your child's school nurse, teachers, coaches, and principal to explain your child's specific needs.
Visit www.Time2TalkAsthma.com for informative tools, including a medical checklist for doctor's appointments, a sample asthma action plan for your doctor, tips for babysitters, and a cheat sheet for medical terms related to asthma.
Jo's Tips for Siblings: Make sure you also talk to siblings. Feelings of rivalry, jealousy, or resentment can crop up if siblings feel that the asthmatic child is getting special treatment or more attention from you. Talk to all your children openly and make sure they understand that you have to work together as a family to help with asthma management at home. Make sure all your children get to spend some one-on-one time with you, but also set aside time to do things together as a family. And importantly, don't forget to set aside time for yourself.
Facts on Asthma in Children
Courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Asthma is a chronic condition that affects inflammatory cells and causes the airways to become inflamed, swollen and irritated. Although asthma cannot be cured, symptoms can be managed and treated.
- The most common asthma symptoms that children experience are wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing. A number of factors like physical exertion, colds, or other illnesses, in addition to allergens like pollen, mold, house dust mites, and pets, may lead to an increase in asthma symptoms or attacks.
- Ordinary cold and flu viruses cause airway inflammation and sometimes worsen asthma symptoms in children.
Small airborne particles such as pollen, dust mites, and mold have been associated with respiratory symptoms in children with asthma; changing weather conditions, including extreme temperatures, barometric fluctuations, and high humidity have also been associated with asthma flare-ups.
Tips to Help Reduce Symptoms
- Reduce common household allergens and irritants such as animal dander, mold, dust mites, scented cleaning solutions, and tobacco smoke.
- Create an asthma action plan with the child's healthcare professional that lists daily medications, relevant allergens, and irritants to avoid, symptoms and directions for how to prevent and manage symptoms.
- Incorporate the asthma action plan into family routines: try to administer daily medications at the same time each day, serve fresh and wholesome foods, ensure children keep to bedtime schedules, and be consistent about keeping allergens and irritants out of the bedroom and play areas.
- Use an asthma diary to keep track of symptoms, medications, and other factors, such as peak flow rates, which measure how well the large airways are working.
Download these easy-to-use asthma tools at www.Time2TalkAsthma.com.