Many people diagnosed with asthma may worry about it affecting their future children. Michelle Rivas shares how she handles the "what-ifs" of asthma when planning for a family.
As an adult with asthma, I have an inner dialogue about my health that runs in an anxious stream of consciousness. As I prepare for my upcoming wedding and have conversations with my future spouse about what the future will entail, I have more questions than ever.
I wonder what type of parents we’ll be. What age should a child be before they could reasonably own a mobile phone? Will free-range parenting be for us?
But for me, a terrifying question is whether or not my child will have asthma too. Will they be limited in the physical activities they can pursue? Will we find ourselves in and out of emergency rooms? Will various asthma treatments and air quality levels determine our schedules?
Becoming a parent involves taking a risk and diving into the unknown. I’d love for my future children to have my hair and my partner’s eyes, a love of reading and my partner’s wit.
As with every potential parent, I want my future children to be perfectly healthy. Unfortunately for me, asthma runs in families and children of asthmatic parents are at increased risk of asthma.
That said, asthma is typically variable from person to person, meaning I have no way of predicting the impact of my asthma on my future children.
One analysis of several studies also found that the likelihood of passing asthma onto your kids is greater if you’re female, which isn’t helping to ease my concern.
From anxiety to action
After worrying about this for longer than someone reasonably should, I've refocused my energy towards five important ways to control the impact asthma may have on my children.
1. Create a child-friendly AND asthma-friendly environment
While I continue to prepare for post-wedding milestones like buying a home with my partner, I'm strongly considering the impact a location and environment can have on my children.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) has even put together a list of the worst places to live for people with asthma. Terrifyingly, Chicago, my current home, is on the list as one of the top cities with the most asthma-related deaths. We may not be here for as long as we thought we would.
In the UK, 97% of homes are affected by polluted air. Some of the worst places for pollution include Slough, London, and Portsmouth.
2. Keep mindful of healthcare access
To manage any disease, you need access to the tools, resources, and clinicians to help you maintain your health.
I’ll continue to build my "Asthma Dream Team" of doctors and ensure that - no matter where we end up - having access to these resources is a top priority.
3. (Continue to) educate myself and my children about asthma
My asthma-related knowledge continues to grow each year following my diagnosis. As an adult with asthma, the learning curve was a bit steep.
Through my team of asthma specialists and doctors, I've learned the ins and outs of managing this disease, and I'm still expanding my knowledge. As a future healthcare decision-maker in the family, this gives me more confidence to navigate a potential diagnosis at any age.
Connecting with others with asthma has been hugely beneficial for me. Everyone needs someone to talk to who understands their struggles. Whether venting about disease management or brainstorming new ideas for better care of yourself and your family, it's crucial to have a network.
5. Access asthma resources for my family and me
Having the proper asthma management tools is one thing, but adding educational resources and staying up to date with research is even better.
As someone who genuinely loves reading and writing about health, I read as much about asthma as possible, and I've learned so much! Research advances every day, and my goal is to stay well-informed for years to come.
NPS-IE-NP-00676 January 2023