Managing Asthma in Children: Awareness, Education and Action
May is Asthma Awareness Month. Throughout the month of May, and on World Asthma Day (May 7th, 2019), people with asthma and asthma education organizations raise awareness about asthma in order to improve the lives of people with asthma. World Asthma Day is an annual event organized by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) to improve asthma awareness and care around the world.
In this post, we’ll be focusing on managing asthma in children, recognizing symptoms and triggers, the effect of asthma on kids in the United States, and how to develop an asthma action plan for your child.
What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the airways in the lungs. During an asthma attack, airways become inflamed, making it hard to breathe. Managing Asthma in children is important before, during, and between flare-ups as asthma attacks can be mild, moderate, or serious — and in some cases, life-threatening.
Types of Asthma:
Child-onset Asthma: This type of asthma happens because a child becomes sensitized to common allergens in the environment – most likely due to genetic reasons.
Exercise-Induced Asthma: Some people only experience asthma symptoms during physical exertion. With proper treatment, a person who suffers from exercise-induced asthma may not have to limit his/her athletic goals.
Steroid-Resistant Asthma (Severe Asthma): Steroid-resistant asthma refers to inflammation and constriction of the airways that does not respond to treatment with steroids.
Recognizing the Symptoms of an Asthma Attack:
- Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
- Tightness or pain in the chest
Common Asthma Triggers:
- Allergens (like pollen, mold, animal dander, fungi, and dust mites)
- Irritants (such as tobacco smoke, aerosol sprays, some cleaning products)
- Rigorous exercise
- Occupational hazards
- Air pollution
- Respiratory infections
Although there is no cure for asthma, families can manage their child’s asthma with medical care and prevent attacks by avoiding triggers.
The Impact of Asthma on Kids in the United States
- In 2008, asthma caused 10.5 million missed days of school
- 7 million children had asthma as of 2010 (1 in 11 children).
- In children, boys are more likely to have asthma than girls.
- Black children are 2 times more likely to have asthma than white children.
- In 2009, nearly 1 in 5 children with asthma went to an emergency department for asthma-related care.
Managing Asthma in Children: The Importance of Education and Developing an Action Plan
Two important parts of managing asthma are education and action plan, which include teaching children how to recognize asthma symptoms. If you haven’t yet, you should develop an asthma action plan with your child’s doctor. Research shows that children are more likely than adults to learn how to manage their asthma. In fact, more than 8 in 10 children are taught how to recognize asthma symptoms; however, less than 50% of children get an asthma action plan.
What is an Asthma Action Plan?
An asthma action plan for a child with asthma is a plan from your doctor that includes written instructions from your child’s doctor with clear, actionable steps to help you manage your child’s asthma. An action plan will include:
- What medicines to take and when
- How to avoid triggers
- What to do between flare-ups
- How to recognize and manage symptoms as they occur
- Steps to prevent and treat exercise-related symptoms
Managing Asthma in Children at School
In order to properly manage a child’s asthma at school, it is important that the school staff receives a copy of your child’s asthma action plan, as well as detailed information on asthma medications your child takes, so they are prepared in the event of a flare-up or emergency. All of your child’s teachers and staff should be familiar with the details of the plan and have it available so they know how to manage it at school. If your child has exercise-induced asthma, the child’s PE teachers and recess staff should also be familiar with the plan.
By obtaining and adhering to a plan, you will learn how to care for your child’s condition, help your child to recognize symptoms and ask for help when they need it, and when it’s time to call the doctor or seek emergency care.
Does Asthma Affect a Child’s Daily Activities?
Yes. Nearly 50% of children with asthma miss at least 1 day of school each year because of their asthma, and about 3 in 5 people with asthma report that they limit their usual activities because of their asthma. If you work with children who are affected by asthma in physical or recreational activities, understand that exercise is encouraged for all children, including those with asthma. The child’s asthma action plan should include steps to prevent and treat exercise-related symptoms. In addition to the exercise plan, you can try these three inclusion tips to ensure that the child will be able to participate in activities with their same-age peers and that they feel comfortable doing so.
3 Inclusion Tips for Managing Asthma in Children:
- When a child with asthma is engaging in physical activity, check in with the child, and offer a rest break from the activity if necessary.
- Always have the child’s inhaler nearby and ready to be used.
- If a child is uncomfortable with activities that include running, consider a slower pace, or for group games, try a position that requires less running (if necessary).
Asthma’s Impact on the Nation from CDC National Asthma Control Program
CoachArt Special Needs Inclusion offers tips for communicating with special needs children and inclusion tips for kids who need different accommodations.
World Asthma Day Toolkit from Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA)
What tips have you found helpful in managing your child’s asthma? We would love to hear from you! Please share your experience with us in the comments.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE FOR FAMILIES IMPACTED BY CHILDHOOD CHRONIC ILLNESS
Since 2001, CoachArt has matched volunteer coaches with students for one-on-one or group lessons in arts and athletics. Our vision is that one day every family impacted by chronic illness will be connected to a community of support and an opportunity to learn and grow together.
CoachArt offers free art and athletic lessons to chronically ill children and their siblings between the ages of 5-18 in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, and San Diego. If your child has been diagnosed with a chronic condition, we invite you to fill out a student eligibility form or get in touch to learn if CoachArt is right for your child.
Ways to Help
Do you have an artistic or athletic skill you would like to share with a child impacted by chronic illness? Become a CoachArt Volunteer.