Coping With Asthma
Asthma is a lung condition seen in both adults and children. In asthma, the airways narrow, making it hard to breathe, because the linings swell, too much mucus is produced in the lungs and the muscles tighten up . Allergic asthma can be triggered by an allergen such as pollen or dust.
What Causes Asthma?There doesn’t seem to be one single cause for asthma, but children with relatives with asthma, eczema, hay fever or other allergies are more likely to develop asthma. Other things that can increase the risk of asthma include having another allergy, having had the lung infection bronchiolitis, having a mother who smoked during pregnancy or being around smokers as a child, and having been born prematurely or having a low birth weight.
Asthma is set off by ‘triggers’. In allergic asthma, this might be pollen, animal dander, dust or fungal spores. Other triggers can include cold, stress, infections, medicines, certain foods, cigarette smoke or paint fumes.
Symptoms of AsthmaSymptoms of asthma include a tickle in the throat, tight feeling around the chest, wheezing and coughing. Whereas wheezing is a common symptom in adults, chronic cough is a more likely symptom in children.
Treatments for AsthmaAsthma treatments can be divided into preventers and relievers, and most come as inhalers, though there are now some tablets available. Preventers reduce the symptoms of asthma overall, as well as lowering the chance of a severe asthma attack. It’s important to take these regularly. Relievers are used when the child feels wheezy, or has other signs of an asthma attack.
Inhalers can seem difficult to use properly, especially with young children. Ask for a demonstration from the nurse or doctor. Some inhalers can be used with ‘spacers’, which makes it easier to breathe in all the medication. Nebulisers make liquid drugs into a mist that can be breathed in, and this might be easier for babies and toddlers.
As soon as children are old enough, it’s important to start teaching themselves about their asthma, and how to take their medications. This will help them to become more independent. It’s also vital to teach them how to recognise and asthma attack and what to do. Talk to the school as well, and make sure that the teachers know what to do and what to avoid.
Exercise can help with asthma, by improving breathing, increasing fitness and raising self-esteem, mood and confidence. While it may seem impossible, remember – there are even Olympic athletes with asthma, including Paula Radcliffe. Talk to the doctor or nurse about suitable forms of exercise.
Things to AvoidIt’s a good idea to work out what the triggers for the child’s asthma are and try to avoid them if possible. For example, if the trigger is dust, vacuum and damp dust regularly, including soft furniture and mattresses, and wash curtains as well. It might be worth considering moving to hard floors and plastic or wooden blinds, as these are easier to keep dust-free.
If the trigger is pollen, keep windows shut where possible when the pollen count is high, wash hair, clothes and bedding regularly to remove pollen, and avoid places that are high in pollen-producing plants. If the trigger is cigarette smoke, anyone living in the house should try to give up smoking (it’s a good health move too) and the child with asthma should avoid any smoky environments.