Six million children in the United States suffer from asthma. It’s the most common chronic lung disease in children.
Most likely, your child was diagnosed before his or her fifth birthday. It’s a scary moment when your child describes an elephant on his chest or says they can’t breathe. Their tiny body shows signs of labored breathing and faint whistle sounds from inside their chest. There are several factors that could have lead to your child’s asthma including genetics or environmental factors like poor air quality. This guide will help you as a parent or asthma sufferer take control of symptoms, triggers, and attacks.
1. Understand Air Quality in Your Home
No offense, but the air quality in your home might be downright dirty. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the air in our homes and workplaces can be worse than the largest industrialized cities. Indoor air pollutants can make it even more uncomfortable for asthma sufferers. So how do you change the quality of the air you and your children breathe in most often? The EPA suggests starting by cleaning up the potential source of the pollutants.
Here are things to look for:
- Are there signs of mold?
- Does your home have proper ventilation?
- When was the last time you had your vents, furnace, and air conditioner cleaned?
Cleaning these three components will not only improve air quality for the asthmatic living in your home, but it will save you money in the long run.
2. Invest in Air Quality Improvements
We spend about 90% of our lives indoors breathing a potential cesspool of toxins. For a child suffering from asthma, they can feel the difference in air quality like a weight on their chest. We can track in pollutants from outside or add to pollutants just by cooking, cleaning, or forgetting wet laundry in the basement. The EPA recommends investing in quality air filters for your HVAC systems. The filters won’t remove all pollutants from your home, but it will make a difference for asthmatics whose symptoms are triggered by poor air quality.
3. Make the Air More Breathable
Consider a stand-alone air cleaner. They are not all created equal depending on the size of the unit and the room where you place it. Consumer Reports compared models ranging from $50 to $900.
4. Test the Air You Breathe
We can’t see the air we breathe, but asthma sufferers can certainly feel it. If it’s polluted, they know. For the rest of us, technology can help assess air quality in our homes. Products like air quality monitors give you an instant air quality index (AQI) reading. These products can connect to your air purifier, humidifier, and air conditioner. They can turn on the appropriate products to give you the best air quality in your home.
5. Download the Asthma Care App
Let your child take the reins of their asthma maintenance. Pediatric asthma experts at Nationwide Children’s Hospital developed the first app made for young asthma sufferers. The Asthma Care app helps your child or teen learn what triggers their wheezing, when to take a rescue inhaler, and how to avoid an attack. The app helps sufferers understand what triggers their symptoms. The list includes pollen, weather changes, poor air quality, and animal dander.
The app is free to download after filling out a form here.
6. Prevent an Asthma Flare-up With One Vaccine
One of the easiest ways to prevent serious issues with you or your child’s asthma is by getting a flu shot. The Mayo Clinic reports the influenza vaccine won’t prevent an asthma flare-up, but it can lessen the impact if you get the flu. Asthmatics have sensitive airways and the flu exasperates the severity of an asthma sufferer. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone over six months of age should get the influenza vaccine.
7. Make a Plan With Your Child’s School
A sick day for your child likely means a sick day for you too. It’s estimated that asthma is one of the leading causes of school and work absences in the U.S. The school nurse should have a clear plan from you and your child’s pediatrician on how to respond to their symptoms. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America created an easy–to–understand guide sheet for school nurses. It can also be given to a babysitter or grandparent who cares for your child.
Click here to print the Asthma Action Plan.
8. Know Your Rights
In the United States, asthma sufferers are protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act. This means asthmatics cannot be discriminated because of their diagnosis. You cannot be denied a job because you have asthma. Your child cannot be denied access to school because of asthma. If you are based in the USA, the ADA can help you make changes in a workplace or school setting to accommodate an asthmatic. If there is mold or old carpet flaring up symptoms, you have a right, in most cases, to request a remedy.
The ADA has a hotline for inquiries and complaints. The number is 800-514-0301.
9. Travel With Confidence
Asthma should not prevent you from living life! Asthmatics and their families shouldn’t feel tied down because of medication or environmental factors. There are simple steps you can take to make sure your travels don’t include a hospital stay. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America suggests bringing a mask to prevent catching the flu in tight quarters on a plane. Bring disinfecting wipes to clear off tray tables. Pack medication in a clear bag and carry it on the plane. The TSA can scan your nebulizer at security.
10. Don’t Get Discouraged by Setbacks
A laundry list of factors can flare up you or your child’s asthma. Stay the course! Rely on your doctor to help create the best action plan for asthma care. Living with asthma isn’t a choice, but controlling it is.
*Disclaimer: All questions about diagnosing and treating asthma should be directed at your doctor.