5 Tips for Controlling Your Child's Asthma

If you have a child who has asthma, there's a lot you can do to help keep the asthma under control. Here are five suggestions.

1. Keep an asthma diary

Your child's doctor can't improve a treatment plan unless you and the doctor know how it's working. This is why it's helpful to keep an asthma diary. Use a notebook to write about how your child feels. Write notes on the days when your child is sick. Be sure to write the date and your child's symptoms, such as wheezing and coughing. Record quality-of-life problems, such as reduced activity and trouble sleeping through the night because of coughing or difficulty breathing. If your child takes rescue medicine during an asthma attack, record when and how often your child needed the medicine and the peak flow readings before and after the medicine. If your child takes medicines regularly, record the dosages. Some parents find it useful to have a comments section for each day. This way, they can write notes about triggers (things that can start asthma problems, such as pollen or dust) and side effects from medications, such as sleepiness or jitteriness. Do you need to keep a daily record when things are calm? That's up to you. A good rule to follow is: If you notice symptoms, write them down.

2. Use a peak-flow meter

A peak-flow meter measures the flow of air out of the lungs. It is used to measure the maximum flow of air as the child forcefully exhales. It can help you judge the health of your child's lungs. Your doctor or pharmacist can teach you how to use the peak-flow meter. Record your child's personal best reading. You should ask the doctor at what peak flow number you should give your child rescue medications, and at what number you should bring the child in to be seen.

3. Talk with your doctor

Take your child for regular checkups even if your child feels fine. The doctor will check your child's breathing. If your child takes medicine, the doctor will make sure it is working right. Take advantage of your time with the doctor to show the doctor the asthma diary and to ask questions. Your doctor should give you a written asthma action plan, including information on how and when to give medications, and when the child should be seen.

4. Learn to manage medicines

The better you understand your child's medicines, the better you can manage your child's care. When the doctor gives you information about medicines, write it down, or better yet ask your doctor to write out the instructions for you. Always follow instructions about what medicines to take and when to take them. There are several types of asthma medicines. Maintenance medicines prevent asthma symptoms, and must be given every day, even when your child is feeling well. Rescue medications are given to treat asthma symptoms when they develop. Sometimes your child will need certain medicines even when he or she seems healthy. Ask the doctor to show you how to give the medicine. Many inhalers need to be used with a spacer to deliver the medicine into your child's lungs. Giving the medicines correctly makes a big difference in how well they work. It is also helpful to keep a list of all your child's medications with you in case of an emergency or if your child needs to see a different doctor.

5. Learn all you can about asthma

You are a key member of your child's medical team. Becoming educated about asthma in general, and about your child's asthma in particular, will help you and your child manage the condition effectively. Start your education in the doctor's office. The staff can give you literature about asthma. They can also show you how to use medical devices, such as inhalers, and tell you what to expect from medicines. They may be able to refer you to classes or support groups in your area. Other great resources are the library or the American Lung Association.