There is hope for children who are living with asthma and allergies. While a cure is not yet on the horizon, there are some very effective treatments available for asthma, and parents can effectively limit a child’s exposure to certain allergens. With some awareness and the right lifestyle changes, you can make your son or daughter more comfortable and help protect them.
Know the Signs of Childhood Asthma
There are very effective treatments available for asthma, but the condition must be diagnosed by a medical professional first. While it’s normal for a child to be slightly out of breath after they’ve been running around with friends, they should not have congestion or tightness in the chest. Listen for a faint whistling or wheezing sound when they exhale as this can indicate that airways have constricted.
Other signs of asthma that you might miss include frequent, intermittent coughing, trouble sleeping caused by coughing or wheezing, and ongoing fatigue. Children with asthma may also have more difficulty recovering from respiratory infections or other illnesses, and they often have trouble keeping up with other children because of their breathing difficulties. Symptoms tend to be more severe at night, so listen to how your child sounds when sleeping.
Keep in mind that young children don’t know how to express what they’re feeling. They won’t say, “My chest feels constricted,” but they do know how to say, “My chest feels funny.” They may complain about how the coughing gets in the way of having fun. Doctors will reassure people that there’s no such thing as a silly question, so make an appointment for a checkup if you have any concerns.
Watch for Childhood Allergies
For many people, hay fever comes to mind when they’re discussing allergies. However, the truth is that allergy symptoms go far beyond itchy eyes or a runny nose. Your son or daughter may have an upset stomach from the sinuses draining. Skin rashes or hives can occur, and the allergic symptoms can also include trouble breathing.
Common triggers include pet dander, dust mites, tree pollen, and certain foods. While foods like peanut butter get a great deal of attention because they can cause life-threatening symptoms, the fact is that all allergies can make your child miserable and negatively affect his or her quality of life.
As a parent, you may suspect that your child has allergies or asthma, but it needs to be confirmed through medical testing. With asthma, doctors generally make the diagnosis based on the nature, frequency, and severity of symptoms. They may conduct tests to rule out other conditions, and lung function tests may be conducted in children that are over the age of six. Younger children cannot perform the lung function tests because they’re not as accurate, but the doctors can still monitor symptoms to arrive at an accurate diagnosis.
When it comes to allergies, there are more tests that are available to positively identify foods or environmental elements that cause problems. Skin tests are commonly used to see if a positive result occurs following exposure. In vitro tests look for allergen-specific antibody levels in order to better identify allergies to certain foods, insect bites, medications, latex and more.
Medical Alert Bracelets
Depending on the severity of the problem, you may want to invest in a medical alert bracelet for your child. This bracelet can be used to list out life-threatening food allergies and conditions like asthma. It can provide valuable information to paramedics in the event of an accident, and it can also serve as a quick, visual reminder for substitute teachers and other professionals who may not see your son or daughter on a daily basis.
Open Communication with Schools
Don’t be afraid to ask for school accommodations. Some peanut butter allergies can be so severe that the child just has to be exposed to a small amount of dust from peanuts to have symptoms. In these severe cases, the school may agree to ban peanuts so that other children cannot bring the substance in. If your child is allergic to pet dander, then he or she will need a learning environment that does not have any school pets. Accommodations can be made for gym class so that children with asthma can be closely monitored during the strenuous activities.
Medication for treating asthma and allergies must be left with the school nurse. Contact the Board of Education to find out what medical forms they require. Some districts just need the medication along with a note from the doctors, but others will have special forms that should be filled out and signed by the physician. Get this paperwork in place and ensure that the school always has a current prescription on hand to address emergency situations.
Identifying the Emergency Situations
With either condition, there is a chance that an emergency situation can arise. While you don’t want to rush off to the doctor for every little sniffle, you also don’t want to ignore a situation that requires treatment. Learn how to identify the emergency situations so that you’ll know when to head to the ER and when you can wait for regular doctor’s hours. Serious warning signs include:
- Stopping midsentence to breathe
- Using abdominal muscles to force breath in and out
- Having widened nostrils when breathing
- Struggling so much to breathe that the abdomen is being pulled under the ribs with each intake
- Swelling of the lips or tongue
- Severe itching inside the mouth
- Vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and cramps
- Weak pulse, dizziness, or passing out
- Itching skin accompanied by hives or swelling
Complications from Asthma
Asthma medications are highly effective at reopening the airways so that the child can breathe, but every attack carries the risk of complications. The airway can permanently narrow, and poor sleep can result in chronic fatigue. It’s hard for the kids to participate in regular play and sports with other kids, and this can have an impact on self-esteem as well as their general quality of life. Severe attacks can result in hospital stays to get the situation under control.
The Clean House
Whether your child has asthma or is allergic to dust mites, a clean house can help you control the symptoms and minimize outbreaks. However, simply cleaning on a regular basis won’t be enough. You can limit the dust in your home by switching from carpeting to hardwood floors. They’re easier to clean and won’t harbor dust mites. Use a damp cloth for dusting so that you capture and remove the dust rather than spreading it through the air.
Consider getting a whole-house filtration system to pick up more dust from the air and protect your family. You should also change your filter more frequently to keep the home healthy. Use special HEPA-filter vacuums, and vacuum off the upholstered furniture every time you clean the floors. Wash sheets and bedding more frequently, and use special mattress covers to create a more allergen-free sleeping space.
When buying cleaning supplies, remember that harsh chemicals can irritate both conditions. Invest in green cleaning products that are safer for your family and will leave the air smelling great. Prevent mold and mildew by controlling humidity levels in your home and using a dehumidifier in the basement. Use the air conditioner to reduce the amount of pollen slipping into your home.
Effective Asthma Treatments
Control asthma through inhaled corticosteroids, leukotriene modifiers, and combination inhalers. Preventive measures include keeping up with any daily medications, helping your child maintain a healthy weight, and encouraging your child to keep moving and exercising when possible. If asthma is well controlled, your child can participate in his or her favorite sports and activities without limitation.
Alternative treatment options include practicing structured breathing techniques, acupuncture, and herbal remedies. Some people have also had great results with meditation, hypnosis, and biofeedback.
Working With Allergies
When it comes to allergies, the first step is trying to avoid the trigger. However, this isn’t always possible. You’ll want to work with your doctor to create an action plan for treating your child’s flareups. This can include taking antihistamines when required, using decongestants if prescribed, and keeping nasal allergy sprays on hand. Some people can receive allergy shots for long-term relief, or your doctor may have some other suggestions. Maintain the clean environment, and pay attention to detail so that you can spot triggers and help your child avoid them.
Allergies and asthma have the power to make life miserable, but you don’t have to accept this. With your attentive care and knowledge, they can embrace a more active and enjoyable lifestyle. Work closely with your doctor to manage the symptoms, but take steps at home to create a safe environment that’s better for children with these conditions. With the proper management and care, there’s a chance that kids will gradually outgrow these problems, but you can prepare them to life with the condition if it stays with them for a lifetime.