Don’t Let Asthma Bully You!

An edited version of this post appeared at MomsTeam, a trusted source for youth sports information from a group of experts (including doctors and coaches) and parents.

Does Asthma Bully You?

A neighborhood child bullied my son Chris at one time. Finding out about this my wife and I put a stop to this unacceptable situation. We were not alone. Bullying continues everywhere, but society seems more aware and is addressing it head on. Ultimately it is our duty as parents to help put an end to it.

Why? I believe it’s because we have a natural desire for what is the best for our children. We hunger for schools, friends, foods, healthcare, and material things that are top notch. We do not tolerate bullies who would attempt to control or prevent us from fulfilling these desires.

Not surprisingly, if your child has asthma that is not well controlled, you are living every day with a bully.  Yes, uncontrolled asthma is just that, a bully. It can cause your child to waken at night with coughing or wheezing, prevent them from participating in physical activities and sports, send them to the Emergency Room or hospitalize them, cause them to take potentially harmful oral steroid medications several times a year, cause them to miss school, and at it’s worst, kill them. You would not accept these threats from a person. Do not tolerate them from asthma!

More than half of people who have asthma live with less than optimal control. Asthma is not curable, but in most cases it can be better managed. In the book, Beating Asthma, we present seven principles to follow to help you obtain the best control possible for you.

First, you must understand that asthma is a chronic illness. It is present even when not causing symptoms. After an asthma attack, the asthma is still there, lying in wait to strike again. It cannot be forgotten.

Next, various things can trigger asthma symptoms. If you understand exactly what triggers your child’s asthma, avoiding these things can help prevent acute attacks. Allergens are one example of a trigger. If you know that exposure to a cat causes problems, avoiding cats will be of major importance to your child. There are also non-allergic triggers such as strong odors, perfumes and air pollution that need to be avoided.

Asthma can be monitored not only by the presence or absence of symptoms, but also through objective tests of lung function. These can be done either in the doctor’s office (pulmonary function tests) or personally by using a peak flow meter. As with checking blood pressure readings in hypertension, or blood glucose readings in diabetes, one can track how well controlled they are.

The next principle is the proper use of medications. In the past year I have taken care of a young child with uncontrolled asthma who was visiting the ER on a regular basis. Once we got him on the correct medicines, the ER visits stopped. The type and amount of medication used must be customized for every child. Some require more medication others, less.

Having a positive mindset is also an important part of gaining control over asthma.  This is a combination of optimism, ownership and grit. You understand that you own your asthma, that controlling it is ultimately your responsibility. You are not a victim. Understanding this, in the context of believing that improvement is possible, is the basis of a positive mindset.  Possessing grit, a high degree of self-discipline, allows you to pursue your goal of improving asthma control through passionate and persistent effort.

Knowing these things empowers you. The next key ingredient is working with a knowledgeable physician in a collaborative relationship. Together you develop a plan of action. It has been shown that the best asthma outcomes are obtained when working with an asthma specialist such as an allergist. Asthma care by allergists results in a huge reduction in the need for ER visits, hospitalizations, time lost from school and work, and the need for sick-care office visits!  On the Beating Asthma website you will find guidelines for when to see an allergist for help with asthma treatment.

Lastly, working with your physician you can develop an asthma action plan. This plan will outline the steps you need to take when your asthma worsens. It is a powerful tool. Having this plan either written down or in your mind will remind you of what to do when an asthma attack occurs.

Armed with this information allows you to confront the bully known as uncontrolled asthma and, as with all bullies, put it in it’s proper place!

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