Learning to Live with Asthma
My husband and I realized that we had two jobs: keeping our boys well and
teaching them to take care of themselves when they were off with friends or at
school and we weren't around to remind them to use their inhalers.
We also felt we had to walk a fine line. We wanted our sons to be cautious
but not afraid, to take asthma seriously and yet not become obsessive or
hypochondriacal. We didn't want them to be like the goofy neighbor kid who
squirted his inhaler at classmates for laughs — or like the one whose parents
kept him home at the first sign of a cough. We weren't really sure how to find
a happy medium, except to be calm but insistent about doing what was needed to
keep the disease under control.
We were fortunate to find our way to pediatricians who were good teachers,
and we learned a number of things from them that turned out to be important for
the long haul.
My first lesson came when I mentioned that I knew parents who seemed to rush
to the emergency room an awful lot because of their child's asthma attacks. Our
normally mild-mannered pediatrician became irate and insisted there should be
no need for emergency treatment — not if the asthma was being managed properly.
His indignation made an impression on me. So did the idea that if we kept our
wits about us, it might be possible to avoid trips to the emergency room.
I paid attention when he explained that even though our sons' asthma attacks
occurred mainly at night, it would take several doses of medicine during the
day, every day — even when they were feeling fine — to prevent the attacks.
Initially, I found that hard to accept. Why couldn't they just take medicine at
bedtime to get them through the night? I soon found out it wasn't enough. Like
most parents, I hated the idea of giving my children drugs day after day, with
no end in sight. Although there didn't seem to be immediate side effects, I
wondered if problems might develop later, perhaps ones that hadn't even been