Asthma is no fun for either you or your child. During an asthma attack your child will experience coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing due to inflammation, swelling and mucus production in the bronchial tubes.
In my last blog I wrote about myths and facts surrounding asthma. In this blog I will discuss common asthma treatments and strategies to help prevent asthma attacks.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, one of the best ways to control asthma symptoms is to avoid whatever causes them. It is therefore important to know your child’s asthma triggers. Common triggers include such things as allergens, irritants in the air, exercise, and illnesses such as colds and flu.
Trigger: Allergens such as pollen, dust mites, cockroaches, molds and animal dander
What you can do:
- Wash bedding in hot water once a week. Dry completely.
- Use dust-proof covers on pillows and mattresses.
- Vacuum carpets and furniture every week (more often if you have pets).
- Choose stuffed toys that you can wash. Wash stuffed toys in hot water. Dry completely before your child plays with the toy.
- Dust often with a damp cloth.
- Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter on carpet and fabric-covered furniture to reduce dust build-up. People with asthma or allergies should leave the area being vacuumed.
- If you choose to keep pets, make sure they stay of your child’s bedroom.
- Clean dishes, crumbs and spills right away to avoid attracting cockroaches.
Trigger: Irritants in the air, such as smoke, air pollution, chemical fumes
What you can do:
- Don’t let anyone smoke near your child.
- Monitor the Air Quality Index on your local weather report.
- Schedule outdoor activities at times when the air quality is better. In the summer, this may be in the morning.
- Stay inside with the windows closed on high pollen days and when pollutants are high.
- Use your air conditioner to help filter the air coming into the home. Central air systems are the best.
- Remove indoor plants if they irritate or produce symptoms.
What you can do: Exercise is very important to all children, including those with asthma. If your child has exercise-induced asthma, visit with your pediatrician or allergist about a medication your child can use before exercise or sports. Also, check your local air quality to know when to play and when to take it a little easier.
Trigger: Illness. According to the Mayo Clinic, colds and flu are among the most common cause of asthma flare-ups, especially in young children.
What you can do: The best way to prevent illness-induced asthma is to prevent illness in the first place by: getting a flu shot, avoiding contact with anyone who is sick, hand washing and avoiding touching the eyes, nose and mouth.
Despite our best efforts, asthma attacks will occur in our asthma-prone children. When they do, medication is our best ally.
Asthma medicines come in two types—quick relief and long-term control. Quick-relief medicines control the symptoms of an asthma attack and are delivered through an inhaler or a machine called a nebulizer. If your child needs to use quick-relief medicines more and more, your doctor should be notified to see if your child needs a different medicine.
Long-term control medicines will help your child have fewer and milder attacks, but they don’t help your child during an actual attack.
Occasionally, during more severe asthma attacks, your doctor may recommend an oral steroid medication to reduce inflammation. It is very important that such steroids are taken as directed by your doctor.
Your doctor is the best person to talk to about the type of medication best suited for your child’s condition.
Have a Plan
Since it is impossible to completely protect your child from the occasional illness or exposure to allergens and other triggers, it is important be prepared by keeping all asthma medications up-to-date, monitoring your child’s breathing with a peak flow meter, and keeping an asthma log. By keeping a log of your child’s episodes of wheezing and need for rescue medication, you and your doctor can more easily identify triggers and work toward an effective individual treatment plan.