Kids Asthma Management Program (KAMP) of Crozer-Keystone Hospital System gives the following 8 tips to families of children with asthma:
- Know Asthma Warning Signs: Watch a child with asthma for these signs of early onset of an asthma episode: scratchy throat, stomach hurts, nose runs, eyes very watery, feeling tired, feeling dizzy, chest feels tight, loss of appetite, starting to wheeze a little, starting to cough. They may only be signs of an ordinary cold. If they occur in a child who is known to have asthma, observe that child more closely.
- Be Trigger Busters: A trigger is anything that causes the child’s airway to react. Common triggers are dust mites that live on skin cells in bedding and other fabric objects, cigarette smoke, furry and feathered animals, pollen, fresh cut grass, mold, strong odors, weather changes, running/exercising hard, respiratory infections, and air pollution. Avoid exposing a child to asthma triggers as much as possible.
- Share Information about the Child’s Asthma with Teachers/Caregivers and Families: Children spend large blocks of time in group care and at home. Sharing information about a child’s symptoms and any needed health care helps coordinate care for the child in both settings.
- Follow an Asthma Action Plan: This plan is a tool that helps caregivers/teachers and families provide the specific care that any particular child may need. The plan identifies the child’s known triggers, what medications the child should use, when and how to use them, when to contact the child’s health care provider or go to the hospital. Everyone who cares for the child with asthma should be familiar with and have a copy of that child’s Asthma Action Plan.
- Take Prescribed Medications Correctly: Children with asthma usually have two types of medications. These are Quick Relief (or Rescue) medication and Control (Preventive) medication. Quick Relief medication stops symptoms by relaxing the muscles that circle the air tubes in the chest. Control medication reduces the airway swelling and tendency to react to triggers. Control medication makes it less likely that a flare-up will occur.
- Use a Spacer with an Inhaler: Inhalers provide fine droplets of medication. It is hard to time taking a deep, slow breath to pull the medication into the air tubes in the chest with the direct use of the inhaler. With a mistimed quick inhalation, the droplets merge and deposit on the linings of the mouth and throat, doing little good. When a spacer device is used with an inhaler, the bigger, heavier droplets tend to fall against the sides of the spacer tube. That leaves the small droplets in the air in the tube. It is easier to have the child take two slow, deep breaths from the spacer after spraying the mist into the spacer. Spacers come with properly sized masks or mouth tubes. They take a short time to use. If used correctly, they do a better job delivering the necessary medication, better than an inhaler alone or a nebulizer. A nebulizer is a device that makes fine mist for the user to breathe over a period of 5-15 minutes. With a nebulizer, much of the medication is lost into the surrounding air. Every adult who is involved in giving inhaled medication to a child should receive direct instruction from a health care professional about how to use the asthma devices and medications correctly.
- Have Quick Relief Medication For Every Child With Asthma: Be sure that the child’s health care professional prescribes quick relief medication to use if the child starts to have an asthma episode. All the child’s caregivers/teachers must know how to use this medication and be able to do so promptly. It is best to keep Quick Relief inhaler medication with a spacer at home and another set in the child care program.
- Work With the Family to Know When Frequent Asthma Episodes Signal a Need for More Medical Advice: Generally, children with asthma should return for more advice from their health care provider if they need to use their Quick Relief medication more than twice a week, wake from sleep with asthma symptoms more than twice a month, refill their Quick Relief medication or need steroid medication for their asthma more than twice a year.
Adapted with permission of Zalika Shani, MPH, MCHES, Program Manager, and Dr. Vatsala Ramprasad, Pulmonologist, Kids Asthma Management Program. Crozer-Chester Hospital, Delaware County, Pennsylvania