Having a clear treatment plan is crucial for parent and child
Asthma is not a static condition, says John Carl, MD, a pediatric pulmonologist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital. Many children with asthma may be asymptomatic much of the time, but the periodic flare-ups that they experience can be trying – and even frightening – for patient and parent alike.
The goal is to limit those days of symptoms, so the child can remain in school and the parents at work. To do that, it’s necessary to have a plan in place to handle any eventuality, from daily maintenance to a stepping-up of medicines when the child needs them, says Dr. Carl.
“The interesting thing about asthma is that most of the time, mild asthma remains 'under the radar' for patients and parents until they are in the middle of a flare-up. But even someone with mild asthma can have severe episodes,” he says. Triggers include colds and other infections; seasonal allergies; and exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke.
A clear plan will guide parents and children toward the right way to deal with symptoms as they arise. The best treatment is based on collaboration between the family and the physician, and open communication is a must, Dr. Carl says.
Also, he advises that families learn all they can about asthma medicines: which ones are needed for prevention and the proper way to increase use of rescue medicines when acute episodes occur. With the right medications and plan, children won’t have to be excluded from playing sports and participating in other activities, Dr. Carl says.
That often wasn’t the case when today's parents themselves were children, “comparatively the dark ages for asthma care,” he says. “Kids were restricted on activities; they often couldn’t fully participate in sports or play on the playground. Now, it’s a condition that can be very well controlled.”
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