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Talking to Kids About Asthma

Reading time | 3 mins

My experiences of living with asthma as an adult have made me keenly aware of limitations children may face when they live with asthma.

For kids, asthma can be both physically and emotionally challenging. No child ever wants to be seen as “different,” and taking an inhaler, limiting physical activity, or sitting out during recess only draws unwanted attention.

Since I was diagnosed as an adult, I never had the childhood asthma experience, but I have been able to bond with my godchild since we both share the same chronic condition.

We’re able to relate to each other’s struggles and triumphs. By taking an active role in managing my asthma, I can also be a good role model.

When it comes to raising kids, I believe it truly does “take a village.” Having an asthma connection allows me and my godchild to have an even deeper relationship.

Here are a few tips that have worked for me and my family when it comes to talking to kids about asthma.

Know the action plan

An asthma action plan is critical for people with asthma — and especially so for kids. It’s a good idea to give a copy of this plan to schools, babysitters, family members, and even the child’s doctor so they know what to do in case of an emergency.

As children get older, you won’t be able to be with them 24/7. Their independence is a huge part of their growth and adolescent experience.

Kids who have asthma should know what to do when they feel asthma symptoms coming on, when they need medication, or when they’re in a crisis mode and need help immediately.

It’s helpful to use a stop light analogy with green, yellow, and red representing how severe their symptoms are. They should also feel comfortable telling an adult about their symptoms.

You may want to practice a few times or even role-play with younger children so there’s no confusion or fear if the time ever comes.

Being different is something to celebrate

No child wants to feel excluded because of a chronic condition. It’s helpful to talk about differences as something that’s great and makes us unique. This can help build a child’s self-esteem and possibly even shape their worldview.

Additionally, there are many children’s books about asthma that can help explain asthma to children, family members, and friends.

Knowing when to say “no”

Whether a child’s asthma symptoms are triggered by physical activity or environmental factors, it’s important for kids to know when to say “no.”

They should feel comfortable enough to tell others how they’re feeling. They should also know that their feelings are valid, and their safety is the most important thing.

It’s helpful to practice and ask how they might respond to a teacher or a friend when they don’t feel well and need to take a step back.

Learning what to avoid

Everyone’s asthma triggers are different. Children should know how to identify what affects them and also why it affects them. Keep an open line of communication and teach children to recognize what may be causing their asthma symptoms.

Allow them to ask as many questions as they need to in order to understand. Create a list that can be shared with teachers, babysitters, or other parents. Doing this will make sure they’re aware of different substances that might trigger their asthma symptoms. And encourage children to tell an adult about their triggers if you’re not around.

Explain asthma to friends

It’s also helpful for kids to talk about asthma with their friends so that they can understand what it means and how it feels.

It’s also a great way for kids to connect with other kids who have asthma and may be going through the same things.

It helps build a community trust and encourages healthy management of asthma with support.

For more information on how to manage asthma, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team. 

RESP-US-NP-00109 JUNE 2019