When our little one was about 18 months she was diagnosed with asthma. Her main symptom is a chronic cough that tends to come on at night or nap time. Having reflux and a mom with allergies increased her odds of developing asthma. It’s been a long hard battle trying to get on top of this condition but, thankfully, things are finally going very well. It’s been a combination of things – medication and lifestyle changes, that have helped us manage her symptoms. I thought it might be useful to share some of the things we have learned in our mission to bring our little one relief from asthma.
- If your child has been prescribed asthma medication make sure you are consistent with giving it to them. Most likely you will have a steroid inhaler or nebules to use with a nebulizer. The steroid, which is described as a control or preventer medication, helps reduce inflammation over time and it’s essential that your child takes it every day as prescribed even if they are not showing any symptoms.
- Always keep your child’s “rescue” medication (usually a blue inhaler) handy so you can access it quickly is necessary. Some kids, especially those with exercise induced asthma, will benefit by taking their rescue medication before symptoms start if they will be doing strenuous activity. Of course this is something you need to discuss with your doctor but if you know that sports or other activities commonly brings on symptoms giving the medication ahead of time can make a huge difference.
- If your child is prescribed an inhaler use a spacer (aerochamber) to more effectively deliver the medication. Most likely your doctor has recommended it. If not ask a specialist or even a pharmacist about them. They are available in sizes to fit infants all the way up to adults. They make the process of giving inhalers much simpler and much, much more effective.
- If your young child has just started using an inhaler or nebulizer it can be a scary or just plain annoying experience. It can be hard at first to strike a balance between being patient and gentle and making sure they start getting that much needed medication. Thankfully using an inhaler with an aerochamber, or a nebulizer with a mask works just fine on a crying child. As long as the mask is on and they are breathing they are getting their medication. If your child is old enough to understand (they aren’t an infant) start by putting the mask on your face so they can see that it’s not something to be afraid of and it won’t hurt. When our daughter first started taking her inhaler we encouraged her to put the mask on her dolls and give them their medication too. If you know someone else with asthma let your child watch them taking their medication as well. It really doesn’t take long before they just realize this is part of their daily routine. Nebulizers take a bit of time but if you are using inhalers the whole process is extremely quick. Once your child feels comfortable with the medication you can teach and encourage them to take deeper breathes when inhaling and improve the medication’s effectiveness.
- Not all kids with asthma have allergies but many of them do. It’s very important to keep allergies at bay because they can be a terrible trigger. Invest in a good air purifier and put it in or near your child’s bedroom. Keep your home (and again especially the bedroom) as dust free as possible. Put an allergy/dust mite cover over their mattress and pillow. Replaces pillows ever year. Wash their bedding weekly in hot water. If they have stuffed animals in their room throw them in the wash regularly as well. If they can’t be washed get rid of them. If there is carpet in their room consider getting rid of it as carpet hold all kinds of allergy triggers. At the first sign of an allergy flare up give them antihistamines (if they are old enough). If you will be going somewhere that you suspect might cause an allergy problem give them an antihistamine ahead of time. If you have pets and your child is allergic and has asthma, it’s time to consider finding a new home for the pet.
- Never let anyone smoke anywhere near your child.
- Teach them how to cough! This made a big difference for our little one. Although she coughed a lot she didn’t know how to cough effectively. Teaching her how to cough the right way to help clear the mucus out of her throat was easy and very helpful.
- Run a humidifier, especially in the winter. Dry air is hard on the lungs of people with asthma. Running a humidifier can make a big difference. Ideally, in the dry months, you want the humidity to be around 40-45%. If you do use a humidifier change or clean the filters regularly.
- Make sure your child is getting plenty of Omega3s. They are a natural anti-inflammatory (and have some other great health benefits). Good sources of Omega3 are fish, nuts, eggs and flax seed. You can also buy Omega3 supplements for adults and children over the age of 2.
- There are also studies that suggest a deficiency in Vitamin D can make asthma symptoms worse. Vitamin D deficiencies are more likely to occur in the winter months when sun exposure is limited. Good sources of Vitamin D are fish, milk, fortified cereals and eggs. Again, supplements are available, even for infants.
- Kids with asthma (if they are over the age of 6 months) should be given the flu vaccination. The flu is a respiratory virus and can be very dangerous to people with asthma.
- Watch for symptoms. Older kids can often tell you if their asthma is causing problems but little ones can’t. You need to learn what their triggers and early symptoms are so you can try to stop an asthma attack from escalating into something serious.
- When in doubt seek medical attention. Asthma is serious and can be deadly. If your gut is telling you to get help then do so immediately. Asthma is very much under diagnosed and under treated.
To find out more information about asthma in kids I encourage you to visit the Asthma Society of Canada. It is a great resource and they even have website designed specifically for kids.