Experts know that allergies and asthma are related. In fact, children with allergies often have asthma and a skin condition known as atopic dermatitis (eczema) as well. Since allergy triggers can lead to asthma attacks, effective control of allergies may lead to better control of asthma. Identifying these triggers and then avoiding them may help prevent asthma attacks. Asthma symptoms can also be brought on by such triggers as exercise, viral respiratory infections, and irritant fumes or gases. Unfortunately, asthma attacks cannot always be prevented.
Seeing your child have an asthma attack can be worrisome and very frightening, and can make you feel unsure of what to do the next time an attack occurs. Your child's doctor and pharmacist will recommend the right medication(s), doses and delivery devices for your child to treat an asthma attack. These can come in such forms as aerosol inhaler, turbuhaler, or diskus.
Learn how to give the medications properly and make sure you understand the "action plan" designed to best manage your child's asthma. An action plan includes a strategy to prevent an asthmatic attack by avoiding certain triggers and taking medication, as well as a rescue plan, which would be implemented should an asthmatic attack happen. Keep the action plan handy. It includes a list that takes you through specific steps to know when the asthma symptoms are worsening, what to do during an asthma attack, what dose of the medication to use, and when to seek medical attention. You might also be advised to use a peak flow meter at home, which measures how well the lungs are working.
Overall, the goal of asthma management therapy and the action plans is to have no asthma symptoms at all (i.e., no wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath). You know you have reached good asthma management when your child does not miss any school as a result of asthma, can take part in normal physical activity, has good quality sleep that is uninterrupted by asthma symptoms, and does not have to take the rescue asthma medication more than 4 times per week.
If your child has an asthma attack, here's what to do:
- Act calm and confident and speak to the child reassuringly.
- Give the asthma-reliever medications at the very start of an attack as directed by your doctor.
- Try to determine what triggered the attack, and then remove it (or the child) from the area.
- Follow the action plan. If your child uses a peak flow meter, take a measurement to use with the action plan.
- If the attack is under control, you can relax. If it isn't, follow the action plan - you may need to call the doctor or get immediate medical attention.
You can be your child's most important ally in controlling asthma. Inform teachers, principals, school nurses, coaches, and babysitters of the asthma, what triggers it, and what should be done during an attack. As kids get older, you can teach them to manage their asthma themselves. And if you're a smoker, try to quit, or at least don't smoke in the house - smoke aggravates asthma symptoms.