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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 discovered yet.

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