Asthma brings three-quarters of a million children into the emergency department every year, which is the last thing anyone wants now that the warm weather and longer days are letting kids play outside more.
Getting a good asthma management plan organized before an emergency may help your child stay out of the hospital altogether, according to The American College of Emergency Physicians.
"The good news is that fewer children are dying of asthma; the bad news is that it remains the cause of more hospitalizations than any other childhood disease," said Dr. Rita Cydulka, from MetroHealth Medical Center/Case Western Reserve University. "Spring is an ideal time to put together an asthma management plan, before the real trouble starts with the fall allergy and winter flu seasons."
If you are not sure whether your child has asthma, but he or she has the symptoms of asthma (coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath), talk to your doctor. After a child has been diagnosed with asthma, the parent or guardian and child should meet with a physician to develop a plan for monitoring asthma symptoms (usually a peak flow meter) and for medicating the child when trouble develops.
Some children with asthma will benefit from two types of medication: one they use daily to prevent asthma attacks ("controller" medications or inhalers), and one they use to relieve symptoms ("rescue" inhalers).
Children with asthma should carry a rescue inhaler with them or have one readily available to them at school. It is important that when children develop symptoms, they and their caregivers or teachers know how to administer the medication and do so quickly.
Consistent use of controller medications can prevent many asthma attacks and help children lead a normal, physically active life. How and when medications are used may vary from season to season, depending on what an individual child's triggers are.
Typical triggers include exercise, colds and flu, laughing or crying hard, allergens from plants, animals, house dust, cockroach droppings or mold, and irritants such as cold air, chemicals and smoke
Cydulka recommends that you do what you can to limit your child's exposure to his or her asthma triggers. For example, if your child is allergic to furry animals, minimize his or her exposure to them at friends' houses and in the classroom at school. If cold air is a trigger, arrange for your child to exercise indoors during the winter instead of outdoors. If dust is a trigger, replace carpeting with wood, tile or vinyl floor coverings.
Be sure to get your child a flu shot as soon as they are available in the fall.