Help your child breathe easier with an asthma management plan.
If your child has been diagnosed with asthma, you’re not alone: close to 10% of America’s children suffer from this condition, and that number is climbing. But the good news is, by sticking with an asthma management plan, your child can live a healthy, active life.
What is asthma?
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways, making breathing difficult. When the signs of asthma get worse or come on all of a sudden, it’s called an asthma attack. During an asthma attack, the airways and lungs become swollen and irritated. Muscles around the airways tighten. As the airways tighten and swell, less air gets through to the lungs.
Asthma attacks can make it hard for kids to do normal things. School, sports, play and sleep can all suffer. Bad asthma attacks can send a child to the emergency room or even require a hospital stay.
Sometimes, the body over reacts to certain things (these are called triggers). Common triggers of asthma attacks include:
Having a cold or other infection.
Being around tobacco smoke or breathing polluted air.
Allergens such as dust mites, pet dander, mold or pollen.
Breathing cold, dry air.
Physical activity, including normal play.
Emotional reactions, like getting very excited, mad, scared or upset.
Following an asthma management plan
Your child’s pediatrician will help you make an asthma management plan. These plans most often include long-term control medications, which are taken every day to reduce symptoms, along with a rescue medication (inhaler) for stopping an asthma attack while it is going on. Sometimes doctors have people use a peak ow meter to measure how well they can breathe.
An asthma management plan will help you know:
When medications need to be adjusted.
If medications are working.
When an asthma attack is starting.
When you need to call a doctor or get emergency help.
There are many changes you can make around your home to help take care of your child’s asthma:
If you live in a damp climate, you can use a dehumidifier to keep the air dry.
Change your furnace and air conditioner lters often and use a small-particle filter.
Dust each week.
Run your air conditioner instead of opening windows.
Use dust covers on pillows, mattresses and box springs.
Use washable curtains rather than blinds.
Think about removing carpet and installing hard oors, especially in bedrooms.
Keeping children at a healthy weight and treating any heartburn or re ux, can also help control their symptoms.
Asthma and exercise: striking a balance
Staying active is very important for kids with asthma. It makes the lungs stronger, which helps them work better during asthma attacks. But, because exercise can also cause asthma attacks, kids have to know their limits.
Here are some tips to keep in mind:
Warm up and cool down. Starting slowly and ending with a cool down can make exercise and active play easier.
Use the buddy system. Your child should play or exercise with a friend who can go for help if needed.
Avoid triggers. Make sure your child knows his or her triggers and avoids them as much as possible.
Take breaks. Remind your child to take lots of water breaks and catch his or her breath.
Change it up. A day of aerobic exercise — like running, skating or swimming — should be followed by a day of lower-intensity and less strenuous activities.
Check air quality. Check the weather before your child goes out to play. If the pollution or pollen counts are high, encourage indoor play or quieter activity outside.
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