Written by Katelyn Schwanke (last updated September 5, 2008)
When children are diagnosed with asthma it is usually not only scary but potentially embarrassing. It is difficult for young children to understand that chronic illnesses, such as asthma, are not a result of them being weird or different. To effectively help your child, begin by explaining what asthma actually does to the body, how to deal with an attack and end with statistics that will help them understand that they are not going to be rejected by their friends.
Explain to your child that asthma attacks can be induced because of exercise, exposure to allergens (animal dander, grass, pollen, certain foods) or highly stressful situations. Help your child understand how to avoid situations that cause them to have attacks (i.e. teach them how to communicate with friends who have pets or physical education teachers who insist they perform rigorous physical activities). Your doctor can help you to identify the things that trigger asthma attacks in your child specifically. Follow this conversation with an explanation of what asthma does to the human body. Explain that the important tubes in your lungs that transport air to the body to keep it healthy become inflamed and unable to transport the necessary amount of oxygen. Your child's body reacts to this inflammation by producing a sticky substance, called mucus, which makes it even more difficult for oxygen to pass through the tubes and help the rest of their body.
After you feel that your child understands what triggers their asthma and why it happens, sit down and write down a plan for what your child will do if they are away from home and have an attack. Make sure that the child has contact numbers, stays around people if an attack occurs and has been properly instructed on how to use an inhaler prescribed by the physician. Also, alert your child to the dangers of taking cough medication or other medications that have not been prescribed to them from strangers.
Your child will most likely fear that their peers will reject them or that they will encounter embarrassing situations while in the presence of their peers. Explain that of the 25 million people who have been diagnosed with asthma, one-third of them are children under the age of 18.
It is important to review all of this material with your child from time to time so they are properly prepared to deal with this chronic disease. Be sure to consult your child's physician for further questions and recommendations.
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