You're ready for the skinned knees, fevers, and chicken pox, but are you ready for asthma? Out of the 20 million Americans that suffer from asthma, more than six million are children. Protecting our children against the obvious pitfalls in life doesn't allow much time to fight the things we can't see, like the air they breathe, or the germs around them. As parents, we tend to concentrate on what they eat or how much they sleep; diseases like asthma or allergies don't become a problem for us until they become a problem for them. What if there are ways to reduce your child's asthma attacks or prevent them all together?
Asthma, believe it or not, is a disease that can be very dangerous. Not only can it affect a child's ability to breathe, but it can also cause low blood oxygen and prevent oxygen from reaching vital organs in the body. If severe enough, asthma attacks can cause death. In fact, in 2002, over 4,000 deaths were attributed to asthma, 170 of which were children.
Thankfully, deaths due to asthma are very rare in children under 18, and information about this disease is becoming more available and taken more seriously. Most parents who have children with asthma have acquired the techniques and skills to manage their child's asthma and have found success from the knowledge on which they now rely.
Parents today have become experts at determining when their child is getting an ear infection or a fever, but are they ready for an asthma attack? One of the first steps in asthma management is to know what to look for. Every child with asthma exhibits symptoms or warning signs that an attack is near. Some symptoms include coughing, fast breathing, fatigue that is not play-related, wheezing, vomiting, unusual paleness or sweating, irregular breathing, and an anxious look when the child is trying to take in more air. Just as in my own experience, many children try to overcompensate by taking in too much air, which can lead to an attack itself. But by recognizing the symptoms, my family and I have become experts at predicting asthma attacks. I now take great pleasure in knowing that not only can I predicate the attacks, but I can stop them before they begin.
Helping your children take control over their asthma before it takes hold of them can be the most powerful tool in reducing and eliminating their asthma attacks. "The most important thing to remember is to relax," I can still hear my mother's voice in my mind. Relaxing allows your body the opportunity to breathe normally and to get oxygen into the needed organs. It also allows you and your children some time to either consult your pediatrician or take any necessary medication. Reassuring your children in a soft, confident tone helps to soothe them and allows you to make an assessment as to how the attack began and to how to end it.
It wasn't until I was knee-deep in research that I realized that asthma, like allergies, has environmental triggers too. Approximately 75 to 80 percent of children with asthma have significant allergies. Though this may sound like a bad thing, this knowledge can work to your advantage. Isolating triggers can help you to eliminate asthma attacks all together. Some triggers for asthma include exercise, infections, allergies, weather, emotional states of mind, and chemical irritants. Most of the time we can't do anything about the weather or how hard our children play and exercise. However, we can control their environment to help reduce the risk factors for triggering an asthma attack. Monitoring what your child eats and drinks can be helpful in determining whether food or drink allergies are responsible for the attacks. Things like pollen, dust, mold, and pet dander can also trigger allergic reactions.
Don't forget to be mindful of irritants like cigarette smoke, air pollution, aerosol sprays, or strong odors like paint fumes or strong cooking. These irritants can react to your child's body just like allergens do, producing the same coughing, wheezing, and watery-eye reaction that can trigger asthma attacks. Also, be aware that emotional stress can also lead to an asthma attack. Excessive crying, laughing, or yelling can cause your child's body to begin erratic breathing which can also trigger their asthma.
While there are no guarantees against you or your children acquiring asthma or allergies, there are many methods to manage and prevent flare-ups of these inflammatory diseases. Whether you're the parent of an asthma sufferer or an asthma sufferer yourself, it's important to be aware of the triggers that can induce asthma attacks and remember that asthma impacts us all. Arm yourself with knowledge, and you'll disarm asthma, making the disease more manageable and less restrictive.
Contributed by Janean Brown