Living with chronic conditions – Asthma

“Chronic” describes illnesses, such as cerebral palsy or asthma, that which are long-lasting. Where the symptoms are present on a daily basis, or they flare up occasionally. Chronic conditions may be lifelong, and you will need make some changes in your lifestyle.

Most parents often reaction with anxiety, fear, bitterness, and possibly guilt upon discovering their child has a chronic condition. After the initial shock, they become very involved in learning about their child’s condition, and ways and methods of managing it.

When your child first shows signs of a chronic condition, apart from the physical unpleasantness of being ill, he will most likely find the experience of visiting doctors and hospitals quite stressful. Stay calm in front of your child and do not fuss or panic. He or she will see your anxiety, and interpret it in his own way and become more anxious himself; he may even become terrified that he is going to die. Talk to your child rationally about his condition, and explain what is happening to him.

Asthma

The reasons for increase in rate of asthma are not entirely known, although pollution, viruses, low birth-weight, and bottlefeeding instead of breastfeeding are possible factors. Smoking is proven, and a very important factor particularly if you smoke during your pregnancy, and you or your partner smokes during your child’s early years.  Boys, are twice as likely as girls to have asthma.

In can be quite difficult to spot asthma in very young children for three reasons.

  1. 1/3 of all children have at least one attack of wheezing during their first five years and most of them will never have breathing problems again. Even though wheezing may be sever enough to warrant hospital admission.
  2. Doctors may not link individual episodes, so may describe flare-ups as wheezing, wheezy bronchitis, chesty coughs, or colds.
  3. A ‘peak-flow meter’, the device normally used to measure how well the lungs work, can only be used with children over the age of five.

Before reaching a diagnosis, your doctor should wait and see how the pattern of symptoms develop. It is this pattern, not individual symptoms, that confirm the diagnosis. Typical symptom patterns for asthma are:

  • Repeat attacks of wheezing and coughing, usually with colds.
  • A persistent dry, irritating cough.
  • Many restless nights caused by attacks of wheezing or coughing.
  • Wheezing or coughing between colds, especially after exercise or excitement, or when exposed to cigarette smoke and allergens such as pollen, or house-dust-mite droppings.

You will find that certain substances or activities can trigger an attack.

  • Smoking
  • Cold air
  • Certain activities
  • Certain allergies

Treatment

Your doctor can prescribe medicine that will control your child’s symptoms, although they won’t cure asthma. Most medications come in the form of an inhaler (puffer). There are two types: preventers & relievers. Young children should use their inhalers with a device called a spacer, which delivers the drug directly to the airways.

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