Asthma is an inflammatory disease that affects the lungs causing the airways to narrow making it difficult to breath. It is a common condition, with 1 in 11 children in the UK affected. Asthma can be controlled but it is a serious condition and in extreme cases can kill if not treated or responded to in the right way. Symptoms can include wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and a tightness in the chest. During an attack, a child may cough, struggle to breath and go blue around the lips.
The NHS Healthy London Partnership have produced, as part of their Children and Young People’s Programme, an Asthma Toolkit for Parents and Carers which can be downloaded via the link below:
Asthma UK has also produced a leaflet for parents and carers:
Asthma and Older Children
As your child gets older, they will need to be supported to manage their own asthma. However, this can cause anxiety and also embarrassment for some young people who may experience social stigma just when they want to be accepted by their peer group. Medication adherence, or the way in which a patient engages with the prescribers instructions around dosage, frequency etc. is essential to the success of the medication. Sometimes, with preventative medications used with asthma, there is a risk that these are discontinued if the child or young person appears or feels ‘better’.
Positive impact on adherence are the family view and engagement with the medication and condition, acceptance within the child’s wider community and the young person feeling in control and empowered through their medication. Negative impact on adherence can be caused through adolescents feeling controlled by others, family conflicts, denial of seriousness of the condition or any side-effects from the medical.
Below are some hints and tips for parents and carers to help:
- Keep an open dialogue encouraging your child to talk about how they feel about the condition, allowing them to express their emotions.
- Remind your teenager how looking after their asthma benefits them both now and in the longer term. Taking their preventative medicine every day and attending asthma reviews means its les likely they miss out on joining in with activities due to illness. Take time to talk about the importance of the right medication at the right time and getting it reviewed regularly.
- Ensure that they are familiar with the different triggers that set off their symptoms so that they can avoid them or take extra precautions.
- Encourage them to use visual reminders – such as on their phone – to prompt use of prevention inhalers – so they don’t have to worry about forgetting.
- Help them to develop an asthma action plan and encourage them to share it with people important to them.
- Repeat prescription – ensure that they never run out of their medication by setting up a repeat prescription with the GP and encourage them to collect the medication themselves.
- Ensure their school or college are aware of the situation and have the medication detailed on their records.
- Make use of the leaving home checklist from Asthma UK when your child leaves home for college or embarks on a gap year.
General information, including symptoms, causes, diagnoses, treatment and living with asthma can be found on the NHS website.
Expert information and advice on asthma is available from Asthma UK via their website or by calling an asthma nurse specialist on the dedicated helpline 0300 222 5800 (Monday – Friday, 09:00 to 17:00).