Asthma should not keep kids from being kids. Here are 3 myths and realities of childhood asthma.
About 11 percent of American children suffer from asthma, so it’s important to know a thing or two about this condition. Here are some myths about childhood asthma along with their antidotes.
Myth: My child can’t play sports or run hard because it makes asthma worse.
Fact: Activities and exercise should not be a problem for children who are properly managing their asthma. Less than half of children with asthma have trouble with exercise (including playing hard or running). Children who have asthma symptoms while exercising, such as wheezing, coughing or easily getting out of breath, can use their rescue inhalers with a spacer about 15 minutes before the activity to help prevent symptoms. Even Olympic and professional athletes with asthma don’t let it keep them from competing and winning.
Tip: Tell your pediatrician if asthma is keeping your child from playing sports or running and you have tried his rescue inhaler. Asthma should not keep kids from being kids.
Myth: I grew out of asthma; maybe my child will, too.
Fact: Children are not likely to grow out of asthma. Sometimes wheezing caused by viral exposure can go away, but a child who has asthma beyond the age of 4 is likely to continue to have symptoms. This is because asthma has a genetic component. Asthma can become “quiet” during childhood, meaning a child no longer needs asthma medications regularly. It is possible, however, that in later years the asthma will become more active and require daily asthma inhalers again.
Tip: If your child’s asthma has become quiet, he or she still needs a rescue inhaler nearby. It is common for kids with asthma who no longer need daily inhalers to have asthma symptoms once or twice a year, usually associated with a cold or the flu.
Myth: No one dies from asthma anymore.
Fact: Unfortunately, children and adults can still die from asthma. These are senseless deaths because asthma is a manageable chronic condition. The chances of severe asthma attacks and death are greatly reduced with the daily use of asthma inhalers with a spacer. There are also conditions that can aggravate asthma such as allergies to pollen, strong odors or even weather changes. It takes time to learn about your child’s asthma triggers. Allergies are a trigger that can be controlled by medications. Other triggers such as exposure to irritants like cigarette smoke can be avoided. Triggers that are more difficult to control, such as weather changes, cannot be avoided and require vigilance.
Tip: If your child is using daily asthma medications as prescribed and using a spacer with all inhalers, and is still having trouble with asthma symptoms, talk to your pediatrician. He or she may have a trigger that has not yet been identified. Sometimes it takes a referral to an asthma specialist to get it all figured out.
Ellen O’Kelley is the asthma lead nurse practitioner in the Pediatric Pulmonary Clinic at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.
Vanderbilt Asthma, Sinus and Allergy Program offers total care for asthma, allergy or sinus problems, including testing, treatment, resolution and management. Call 615-936-2727 for an appointment.