National Consumers League

Health

NCL Health Issues

Parenting a child with asthma is no picnic

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Watching your child have an asthma attack, or even just symptoms, can be frightening. Keep your kids safe by planning ahead.

 

For parents of young babies with asthma

 

Talk to your doctor to make a daily treatment plan. At the first sign of symptoms (wheezing, coughing, or rapid breathing) respond right away. See a doctor regularly to check on your baby’s asthma, even if the baby is not having symptoms.

Babies can go from having just a few asthma symptoms to a severe attack very quickly! Listen to your baby when he or she is breathing normally so you will be able to spot signs that something is wrong. Your baby needs emergency help if:

  • Breathing rate increases to more than 40 breaths per minute while sleeping. To find breaths per minute, use a watch or timer to count the number of breaths your
    child takes in 15 seconds, and multiply that number by 4.
  • Suckling or feeding stops altogether.
  • Ribs or stomach move in and out deeply and rapidly
    when breathing.
  • Chest expands but does not deflate when exhaling.
    This is not normal breathing.
  • Face changes color from normal to pale or red in the face, or his or her fingernails turn blue.
  • Cry becomes softer and shorter.
  • Nostrils open wider.

DO NOT do these things if your baby is experiencing asthma symptoms:

  • Do not have your baby breathe warm, moist air (like the mist from a hot shower or vaporizer). These things may contain mold that you may not be able to see, and this could make your baby’s breathing worse.
  • Do not have your baby breathe into a brown paper
    bag
    held tightly over the nose and mouth, as people often do for hyperventilation.
  • Do not give your baby over-the-counter medicines.
    Use the asthma medicines that your doctor has prescribed.
  • Do not give your baby a lot of liquid to drink. Normal amounts are okay.

For parents of school-aged children with asthma

Asthma is the biggest reason children miss school days in the United States, causing more than 14 million missed school days a year! Because children spend so much time at school, teachers and other staff need to understand asthma, how to manage symptoms, and how to do their part to create a healthy breathing environment.

You can help your child stay healthy (and in school!) by welcoming teachers and staff into your child’s asthma management team. Talking regularly with people in your child’s school can help you manage your child’s asthma and enable the school provide a healthy environment. Be sure that the people charged with caring for your children during the day know what they can do to manage your child's asthma.

By working together, you can keep your child’s asthma under control.

What You Can Do:

Here are some things you can do:

  1. Develop an asthma action plan for school - Work with your child’s health care provider to develop a plan with step-by-step instructions for how to avoid – and if necessary treat - an asthma flare up at school. The plan should include a list of your child’s asthma triggers, medications and emergency contacts. Make multiple copies of the plan and give them to all adults who interact with your child at school, such as teachers, principals, classroom aides, playground monitors and the school nurse.
  2. Make sure your child can take asthma medications at school. Talk with the school about how and when your child can take medications. A school nurse can hold medications (including a fast-acting inhaler or bronchodilator) for your child. Or, if your health care provider agrees, and your child is comfortable, ask that he or she be able to carry and use a fast-acting inhaler at school without asking permission. If your child is embarrassed about taking medications, try to arrange for a private area or time that will not attract attention. Confirm that asthma medications can be and are taken on field trips.
  3. Help your child fully and safely participate in physical activity at school. If exercise is an asthma trigger for your child, confirm that your child can use medications before, during and after physical activity. If necessary, ask the school for permission to modify the physical activity (such as walking quickly instead of running). Kid’s need exercise, so be sure to encourage your child’s participation; but be realistic about what he or she can handle, and keep needed medication available just in case.
  4. Monitor the school environment. Look at your child’s school for asthma triggers, such as strong smelling cleaning supplies. If triggers cannot be reduced, ask about switching your child to another classroom where there is less exposure to the triggers. Look for:
    • Air quality and ventilation

Are the school grounds free of tobacco smoke at all times? Are art and chemistry classrooms well ventilated so chemical vapors don’t spread?

    • Cleanliness

Are the classes dusted and cleaned regularly? Is dust-free chalk used? Are unscented cleaning chemicals used when possible?

    • Classroom pets

Pets with fur or feathers can trigger asthma. Even if the pet is not kept in your child’s classroom, air circulation systems can spread animal dander to other parts of the school.

    • Moisture

Moisture can lead to mold which can trigger asthma. Are windows free of condensation? Are classroom sinks and bathrooms free of leaks?

What Your Child’s School Can Do:

If you have questions about how the school supports children with asthma, talk to school personnel about your concerns.

For more information on what schools can do to manage asthma, visit the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.

Adapted from the Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma, National Asthma Education and Prevention Program of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, 1997 and from guidelines from the School Asthma Education Subcommittee, National Asthma Education and Prevention Program, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.