I grew up with severe asthma and allergies in the 1970s and 1980s, and I often struggled with poor asthma control. Certain activities exposed me to asthma triggers, and sometimes I just needed to rest.
This made it hard for me to feel like I “fit in.” I struggled to socialize with other kids.
My four brothers didn’t have asthma. They wanted me to do well, but they sometimes forgot about my conditions. They pressured me to participate in activities I should’ve avoided.
Now, I’m the father of three children who have asthma. Here’s how I help them cope with the pressures to “fit in” while managing their asthma symptoms.
Learn as much as you can about your child’s disease
This is a great place to start, especially if you don’t have asthma or allergies yourself.
Learning about asthma helps you to understand your child and his or her limitations and challenges. In my experience, the more you know about your child’s condition, the better equipped you are to help.
Talk with your child’s doctor. Ask as many questions as necessary. Request books and websites where you can learn more.
Talk to your child about what their diagnosis means
Got a good understanding of asthma? Explain it to your child.
I find that kids learn best by looking at pictures or watching videos made for kids. Your child’s doctor may have pamphlets or books to help.
I ordered a few children’s books about asthma. We read them as part of our regular nighttime routine. Before long, my kids had a pretty good understanding of asthma.
Assure your child that asthma can be controlled
One of the neat things about asthma is it can be controlled. Good asthma control means you prevent most asthma attacks before they start. Your child should be able to participate in more activities.
Gaining control begins by taking your kids to an asthma doctor on a regular basis.
A doctor will pinpoint asthma triggers your child should avoid. He or she may prescribe an asthma control plan and an asthma controller medication. This medication must be taken every day exactly as prescribed, even when your child is feeling good.
Help your child learn about asthma triggers
A trigger is anything that exacerbates your asthma symptoms, and may even set off an asthma attack. My biggest triggers were dust and mold. I eventually learned to avoid playing in basements and piles of leaves. Other triggers might include:
- strenuous exercise
- animal dander
- certain weather conditions
What triggers your kid’s asthma? It may take time to find the answer. But it’s important to know.
Tell your child that it’s essential to avoid these triggers to prevent an asthma attack. Explain that participating in certain activities may expose them to potential asthma triggers.
Teach your child how to politely decline
Knowing how to say no was tricky. I knew what activities I should probably avoid as a young kid. I gave into pressure from others (often my brothers) and joined in anyway.
Share tips to help your child politely decline an invitation to participate in a potentially unhealthy activity. I assure my kids that they can always invite their friends into our asthma- (and allergy-) free home.
I loved baseball, but it hated me. The dust on baseball fields triggered my asthma.
My doctor recommended karate classes instead, and it was a great solution. I exercised in a clean, indoor environment. I met friends and socialized.
There are many activities that your kids may enjoy as much as I liked karate. Talk with your child’s doctor about healthy options that can help your child to make new friends.
Explain asthma to your child’s friends
I often kept my asthma a secret. I never complained to my brothers. This didn’t do me any favors.
My brothers knew I had asthma. I think they just forgot, since they didn’t live with the disease day in and day out. It’s no knock on them. It’s just how it is.
It’s up to you what you share and with whom. But I think it’s extremely important to explain asthma to other kids. They’ll likely be more understanding when your child requests to do a different activity.
Talk about asthma with other parents and teachers
Other parents and teachers can be indispensable. Teachers can help educate the class about asthma. Parents can teach their children. Knowledge is a powerful tool to help children to “fit in.”
Usually you just need to make a quick phone call, although a sit-down meeting can be helpful. Explain that your child has asthma. Review the signs to look out for and the actions to take.
These tips helped me to be a better asthma parent. I didn’t always feel like I “fit in” as a child with asthma, but as a result of my experience, I think my kids are better equipped to deal with difficult situations. So far, they seem to handle social situations well!
For more information on how to manage asthma, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team.
NPS-US-NP-00623 APRIL 2020