The pressure to ensure your child with asthma is safe and healthy can make anyone breathe uneasily. In our media-packed culture, it’s easy to let advice from social media friends or self-diagnosing websites overwhelm you with mixed messages of how to care for your children.
Unfortunately, it often is hard to get real answers. And not knowing the truth can lead to sleepless nights and the pressure to monitor your asthmatic child’s breathing like a hawk. By clearing up a few of these misconceptions, we can help you keep your child with asthma healthy and active and allow your own breaths to feel steadier.
Myth No.1: “My child always seems to have a chest cold. This is not asthma; it’s just ‘chronic bronchitis’ and he will probably grow out of it.”
Yes, the majority of children who cough or wheeze with colds during the first three years of life do not go on to have asthma later in life. But, your child may be at risk for asthma. Children who have persistent coughing or wheezing episodes at least four times a year, especially those with an asthmatic parent or with a food or environmental allergy, are at risk for developing persistent asthma. For these children, asthma is a condition that can only be controlled—not cured. Accurately diagnosing asthma is the first step to gaining control.
Myth No. 2: “All my child needs to treat his asthma is to take Albuterol every day.”
While taking medicine every day may prevent constant coughing or wheezing, you may actually place your child at increased risk for more severe complications from asthma, including hospitalization or death. Albuterol just treats the squeezing of the muscles around the airway; it does NOT heal the inflammation and swelling that causes asthma. By using Albuterol regularly, symptoms may be masked and allow the swelling of the airway to continue, or possibly get worse. If you’re using Albuterol every day, talk to your pediatrician about starting daily medicine to get your asthma under control.
Myth No. 3: “I have my child’s asthma under control and only need to see my pediatrician once a year for routine check-ups or when he is sick.”
Patients with asthma should see their physician every three to four months, even if they are well. The goal in asthma management is to prevent becoming sick, rather than reacting to a sickness after it has happened. Simply treating illness as it occurs only leads to a roller coaster ride of healthy and sick periods, with healthy periods becoming rarer. For many families, the hectic nature of life makes it easy to lose sight of why it is necessary to take medication, or parents don’t realize a child is having symptoms or difficulty with activity due to time spent in school. All of these things should be discussed regularly with your physician.
Myth No. 4: “My child’s pediatrician is my only resource for talking about asthma.”
Your pediatrician should be your first stop for any question you have about asthma. But if your child continues to show symptoms despite medication, or your child makes three or more emergency room visits for asthma in one year, then an asthma specialist may be another important resource. An asthma specialist (usually an allergist or pulmonologist) is specially trained to perform and interpret lung function testing, educate a family in ways to reduce asthma triggers and symptoms, and recognize when another medical condition may be making your child’s asthma worse.
Remember that with proper care, asthma should not limit your child in any way. Our goal for all children? Live well, and breathe easy!