Neither of my parents had any experience with asthma when I was born with severe asthma. As a child, I had no idea how challenging it was for them to manage my condition.
I now know that my parents were sometimes overwhelmed and unsure of how to help me. I understand why my condition caused quite a bit of stress for both of them.
Today, I have four children of my own. My two boys don’t have asthma. My two girls both do.
Research suggests our situation is common: Children whose parents have asthma are three to six times more likely to develop the condition than kids whose parents don’t have the condition.
I know what it’s like to have asthma. I certainly wish my children didn’t have it too. Yet, I also believe that I’m especially suited to take care of their needs.
Here are five ways that having asthma as a child made me a great asthma parent today.
Better managing my kids’ controller medicines
The neat thing about asthma? It can be controlled so that it’s rare to have any asthma symptoms at all. They’re usually mild and easily reversed when they do occur.
The one caveat: You have to follow your asthma action plan. That may mean taking a controller medication every day, even when you’re feeling symptom-free.
Kids aren’t always good about taking their medications, especially if they’re feeling fine.
I sometimes forgot to take my controller medication when I was little. Doing this increased my risk of having an asthma attack.
I now manage all of my children’s medications. I understand the importance of sticking to an asthma action plan. I ensure my kids take their medications every day exactly as prescribed.
Being well aware of asthma signs
I often hid my asthma from my parents. I sometimes sat alone in my room all night as a kid, struggling to breathe. Sometimes it got so bad I cried.
I didn’t want to bother my parents, and I now see how foolish I was.
Children don’t always think reasonably — particularly when they’re scared and can’t breathe well.
I’ve made it a point to recognize the very first signs of an asthma attack in my children.
An early warning sign for my youngest daughter is coughing. It’s sniffling and sneezing in my eldest daughter. I’m vigilant about watching for these symptoms so I can help them to better manage their condition.
Remaining calm and in charge
Staying calm is very important in helping to manage asthma in children. Especially when you’re faced with frustrating or scary symptoms.
Coughing can be annoying when it persists throughout the night and keeps everyone awake. I know my mom meant well, but she sometimes got annoyed when I coughed. She’d tell me to roll over or put my face in my pillow.
I grew irritated one evening when I wanted to sleep and my daughter woke up coughing. Then I recalled my own childhood experience and reminded myself that coughing can be a sign of asthma. I gave her an albuterol breathing treatment. She stopped coughing because I reacted calmly and treated her symptoms correctly.
It can also be scary if your child has an asthma attack and you’re not familiar with the symptoms or how to handle them. The good part of having gone through my own share of asthma attacks is that nothing that happens to my children phases me. I’m able to handle things quickly and efficiently.
Acknowledging the importance of asking for help
I didn’t want to bother my parents with my asthma symptoms at night. I make it extra clear to my kids that it’s OK to ask for help.
I remind them every night as I’m tucking them in. “Feel free to wake me up if you don’t feel good. I don’t mind,” I tell them.
My children have taken advantage of this offer more than once. And I truly don’t mind.
Knowing my limits and when to seek medical care
My parents didn’t always know what to do for me. And I’m aware that I don’t always know what to do for my own children.
I understand asthma and am knowledgeable about how to treat it. I know my limits, too. I recognize when it’s time to see the pediatrician or even head to the emergency room.
I’d be happy if my children never had to experience asthma. But at least my own experience bodes well for both of them. I make sure they don’t feel alone or afraid in handling this condition. And we’ve managed their asthma very well so far.
For more information on how to manage asthma, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team.
NPS-US-NP-00608 APRIL 2020