Management of asthma requires understanding the underlying condition, knowledge about specific triggers (viral infections, weather changes, cigarette smoke, exercise, allergens), recognition of signs/symptoms, and prompt treatment with rescue medications. Children with persistent or poorly controlled asthma may also need to use daily medications to adequately control their symptoms.
We all lead busy lives and some of us may face challenges that interfere with the ability to manage asthma. Here are some common areas where management may be difficult, along with tips to help:
Regular use of controller medications: Inhalers such as inhaled steroids will only be effective if used daily and consistently. Many people struggle to remember to use them, especially when feeling well. Others may have hectic schedules or multiple caregivers, which interferes with regular use. Coming up with a plan that works best for your family is the best approach. Some prefer to set reminders on their phones. Others store medicine next to their child’s toothbrush (or even video game console). Ideally, children should not be put in charge of their own medicine – they’re too busy being kids and will not remember to use them regularly.
Avoidance of triggers: It helps to understand your child’s triggers, which may require allergy testing or discussion with their doctor. You should check your home thoroughly for any potential triggers and remove them. This can include cigarette smoke (it doesn’t help to go in another room), pets, scented candles, essential oil diffusers, aerosol sprays, perfumes, and even cleaning products. Anything with a scent to it can irritate the airways, even all natural products.
Pharmacy refills: Controller inhalers need to be refilled every 30 days, even if it seems like there is still medicine inside. Dose counters help keep track, but are not present on every inhaler. Many pharmacies offer reminder calls, or you can set a calendar notice as well.
Starting treatment early: It is important to start using rescue inhalers (albuterol) as soon as any symptoms occur. Many families wait too long to start treatment, which is then ineffective. Don’t think of albuterol as an emergency inhaler, think of it as a rescue inhaler – waiting for an emergency is too late!
Know your action plan: Every child with asthma should have their own action plan filled out by their doctor. This details their daily medicines, when to start treatment, and when to seek emergency care. This should be updated and reviewed at every visit and then referred to if they are having problems.
When it comes to asthma, don’t settle! The goals for everyone with asthma should be the same: sleep well at night, have limited restrictions during the day, and avoid the need for Emergency Room visits.
Dr. David Stukus is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Section of Allergy and Immunology, at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Dr. Dave, as his patients call him, is passionate about increasing awareness for allergies and asthma. His personal life is filled with fun and chaos as he is married to a Pediatric Emergency Room physician and they have two energetic children. His rare free time is spent following his beloved Pittsburgh and Ohio State sports teams. Follow him on Twitter @AllergyKidsDoc for great allergy and asthma tips!
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