Your child’s doctor is a vital resource for all your questions about asthma in children. Yet it’s easy to forget the important things when you’re in the doctor’s office. Here’s a list of key questions to ask about asthma in children. Print it and bring it to your child’s next doctor’s appointment.
- What does it mean that my child has asthma?
When your child is diagnosed with asthma, don’t make assumptions. Whatever you know about asthma may not apply to your child. Many experts say that asthma is a spectrum, not a single disease, and asthma in children is often quite different from asthma in adults. So don’t settle for a general diagnosis. Get the specifics about your child’s condition. You will need to know triggers for your child's asthma, what causes them, and the correct use of medications.
- What changes should I make at home to control my child’s asthma symptoms? One of the best ways to control your child’s symptoms is to control their environment. By reducing exposure to asthma triggers such as dust and mold, you can reduce the problems they cause. Ask the doctor for tips on simple fixes that will help you reduce your child's symptoms at home.
- Does my child need allergy testing? Allergy testing is a way of finding out which specific allergens might be causing your child’s symptoms. It’s not fool-proof, and often addressing the most common triggers will improve your child’s symptoms. But if making the usual adjustments gets you nowhere, allergy testing might show you if there are potential allergens your child needs to avoid.
- What asthma drugs will my child need and why? If your child’s doctor recommends medicine, get the details. Why is your doctor choosing this particular drug to treat asthma in children? What are the side effects and risks? How is this asthma medicine used and how often will your child need to take it? Is it daily or only needed during flare-ups? Should I worry about during coughs and colds? A common concern among parents who hear that their child will need to take inhaled steroids to control their asthma is it's effect on growth. The consensus among experts is that daily inhaled steroid use causes a small decrease in growth during the first year of treatment, but that this difference disappears in subsequent years.
- If my child needs an inhaler, what is the proper way to use it? There are different types of inhalers that serve different purposes and require different techniques. They may need a control inhaler for everyday use or a rescue inhaler for emergencies. A metered dose inhaler may require use of a spacer or a mask. In addition, your doctor can explain how to shake the inhaler before, where to aim and how to properly breathe it.
- Is it safe for my child to play sports? In the old days, kids with asthma were told to sit on the sidelines. Today, sports are usually recommended for children with asthma, because exercise can strengthen lung muscles and reduce asthma symptoms and help long-term lung function. Still, because some activities might be more likely to trigger asthma flare-ups, it’s best to first talk with a doctor about your child’s sports activities. It is often helpful for a child with asthma to use the albuterol inhaler 20 to 30 minutes before practicing or competing. This can minimize the effect of exercise on asthma and is better than waiting for the coughing to start after the activity ends.
- Can my child get a pet -- or can we keep the pet we already own?
While pets can add so much to a child’s life, many -- especially cats, dogs, and birds -- are common allergic triggers for some kids. Always consult your child’s doctor before getting a pet. Your doctor might suggest allergy testing or controlled exposure first. If you already have a pet at home, have an honest discussion with your doctor about the risks as well as proper care of the pet to minimize the risks.
- What should I expect from treatment for my child?
Put your mind at ease by asking questions about what happens next and beyond. How often will your child need check-ups? If their symptoms don’t get better with this treatment, what should you try next? Could your child outgrow asthma someday?
- How should I talk to my child about asthma?
Discussing asthma with a child may not be easy. Some children find the subject confusing or frightening. Others are resentful of their treatment and, thus, resentful of their parents. Your doctor should have advice on how to build a more open and trusting relationship regarding your child’s asthma care.
- How should I talk to people at my child’s school about asthma?
It’s important that your child’s teachers, coaches, and school nurses know about their asthma. Talk to your doctor about the best way to handle these discussions. Make sure that your child has an “asthma action plan” and the proper medication at school with detailed instructions that include the location of the medicine, permission for your child to carry it, and when they'll use it. Ask your child’s doctor to help you personalize this plan based on your child’s asthma and treatment.
- How can I protect my child from being stigmatized because of asthma?
Some children feel like their asthma marks them as different, that they get treated unfairly by other kids -- and often adults. So talk to your doctor about ways to build your child’s self-confidence and prevent them from feeling stigmatized.
- What are the signs of an asthma emergency in children?
Be sure you know the warning signs of an asthma attack. Ask your child’s doctor to help you come up with an asthma action plan. This plan will give you step-by-step instructions on how to evaluate symptoms and when to get help.
- Where else can I find support?
Having a child with asthma may leave you feeling afraid and isolated. Ask the doctor about local support groups for parents and children with asthma. These groups help you meet other people coping with the same anxieties and daily hassles. Support groups can also give your child a chance to see other kids who have asthma -- and that can make a huge difference in how children view themselves and their condition.