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Asthma: Don't Let It Bully Your Child

Seven simple principles for beating asthma

There is a lot of talk these days about bullying.  If your child has asthma which is not well-controlled, they are living with a bully. That's right: uncontrolled asthma is like a bully, tormenting your child every day.  It can cause your child to wake up at night coughing or wheezing, limit or prevent participation in physical activities and sports, send them to the hospital emergency room, miss school, and, at its worst, result in death.

As a parent, you would do everything in your power to protect your child from an actual bully.  You don't have to let your child be bullied by asthma, either.

Beating asthma: seven simple principles

Chronic asthma is well-controlled in less than half of sufferers, but it doesn't have to be that way.

Here are seven principles to follow to help your child control their asthma:

  1. Recognize that asthma is a chronic illness. Even when it isn't causing physcial symptoms, your child's asthma is always there, waiting to strike again.  It must always be managed, not forgotten.
  2. Identify asthma triggers.  If you understand exactly what triggers your child's asthma, avoiding those triggers can help prevent acute attacks. Allergens, such as tree pollen, are one example of a trigger. If you know that exposure to a cat causes problems, avoiding cats will be of major importance to your child. Asthma can also be triggers by things other than allergies such as strong odors, perfumes, air pollution, and, of course, exercise.
  3. Monitor lung function. Asthma can be monitored not only by the presence or absence of symptoms, but also through objective tests of lung function. These can be done either in a doctor's office (pulmonary function tests) or by using a peak flow meter. As with checking blood-pressure readings in hypertension, or blood glucose readings in diabetes, one can track how well-controlled their asthma is. Regular testing helps you identify problems early or simply confirm that your child's treatment is going well.
  4. Customize medications.  Medications can help control your child's asthma, but the type and dose is unique for each child.   I have treated children with uncontrolled asthma who was visiting the ER on a regular basis; once we got him on the correct medicines, the ER visits stopped. 
  5. Think positive: A positive mindset is important in controling asthma. Asthmatic children need to "own" their asthma and understand that controlling it is ultimately their responsibility.  Kids need to avoid thinking of themselves as victims and that  managing their asthma is possible.
  6. See an allergist.  Working with an asthma specialist, such as an allergist, to develop an asthma action plan.  can significantly reduce trips to the emergency room, hospitalizations, time lost from school and work, and the need for sick-care office visits!  For guidelines on when to see an allergist, click here
  7. Develop an asthma action plan. Work with your child's physician to develop a a simplified instruction sheet outlining the steps to take in responding to an asthma attack, depending on its severity.  Having a written plan is a powerful tool in case of an asthma attack.

Follow these seven steps will help your child to control their asthma and beat the asthma bully!

Beating Asthma: Seven Simple PrinciplesDr. Stephen Apaliski is a board-certified pediatrician and allergist at the Allergy & Asthma Centers of the Metroplex in Arlington, Texas, a Fellow of the American College of Allergy and Immunology, and the author of Beating Asthma: Seven Simple Principles.

Posted March 20, 2012