So your doctor told you that your child has asthma. Well, you're in good company. In some areas of California, up to 20 percent of children have been diagnosed with asthma. So what can you do about it? This article will focus on some practical strategies to increase your control over asthma, increase your ability to communicate with your doctor, and finally how to determine when things are worse than you can handle at home and medical attention is necessary.
Controlling the Triggers
We know asthma is a problem that starts when your child is exposed to a trigger. Identifying the triggers that affect your child the most is a crucial part of home treatment. Try to identify what sets off your child's attacks and let your doctor know. No one can do this better than you. Sometimes the trigger will be obvious. Sometimes it will take some detective work. If the triggers aren't obvious, keep a log of your child's attacks and review it with your doctor. Where was your child when the attack started? (In smoking grandma's house.) What was your child doing when the attack started? (Playing with the neighbor's cat.) A very small detail might be the key.
The most common triggers that affect children and their asthma include colds, exposure to smoking, weather changes, and allergies (to dust, molds, cats, dogs, birds--in that order). Some of these we can't control, but some we can, often with very little effort.
Colds: They may be unavoidable, but there are some things that help. Teach your child good hygiene. Good hand-washing goes along way. Set a good example by washing your hands, too!
- Your child should get the flu (influenza) shot annually. It's the one cold we can prevent!
- Discuss the pneumococcal vaccine with your doctor also.
Exposure to Smoking: Probably the most important preventable trigger.
- Try to quit. Easier said than done, but it is the single biggest way that you can affect your child's asthma.
- Get help! Very few people can do it alone and there is lots of help available. Some of the money from tobacco settlements is for just helping people quit.
- If you can't quit, cut down. Smoking outside helps a little, but the smoke sticks to your hair and clothes, and then you bring it inside.
Weather changes: Not too much you can do, but be realistic about where you live. Sometimes a move to a different part of the country can make the world of difference--for better or for worse.
- Visit where you are going to move in a couple of different seasons, if possible.
- Talk to people with asthmatic children in the area to see how they do.
- Avoid areas with heavy pollution or heavy pollen counts if at all possible.