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Monday, May 3, 2010

Advice for parents of asthmatics

Kerri over at hold your breath to breath to breath had an excellent post a while back with great advice for parents of asthmatics.

She writes the following, from the perspective of a high school age/college age person:
  • I still need reminders. Because sometimes I do dumb things, or forget to call the pharmacy for refills of my medication. I don’t want to be pestered, of course, but balancing school and asthma? Sometimes my brain forgets stuff. Ditto for scheduling doctor’s appointments.
  • I can’t drive. So when stuff like this happens, and I realize at 9:30 PM that my medicine is sitting at the pharmacy (which is open until ten), I feel bad enough. So please don’t yell at me . . . Because as bad as I feel now emotionally, I’ll feel bad physically by tomorrow when my Symbicort wears off.
  • I understand my asthma, and I think you should have at least a basic understanding, too. Amy, I am aware this is definitely no problem for you, but I think with the timing of my diagnosis my asthma has always been my responsibility for the most part. Parents, if your kid is diagnosed later in their teen years like I was, it’s helpful if you, too, understand what this disease is doing to my lungs.
  • Most parents wouldn’t do this . . . but my dad did. Don’t make stupid comments about the amount of medication I take. I don’t really have a choice about taking all this medication, and I don’t want to be taking it. But, it’s something I need to do. Ditto making stupid comments about my coughing.
  • There will be days when it seems the world is demanding too much from me at once. These don’t happen often, but when they do, it’s really tough . . . When you notice I’m off, please be sensitive about it.
  • Continue to watch for warning signs of when I’m feeling bad. I can handle it most of the time, but if my usual plan of action isn’t working, I’ll be getting worried . . . and, I probably won’t tell you because I don’t want you to be worried, too, or for you to think I’m overreacting. It’s stupid on my part, but I know I’m not the only one who does this . . . I won’t always ask for help when I need it. And it’s stupid, but true.
  • Rewind: when your kid is twelve (sorry to scare you, Amy, but that’s coming up faster than you think! ), make sure she still carries her inhaler with her.

I can really relate to her because I grew up with asthma, and I experienced things almost the same as she describes here. I remember having attacks and not wanting to bother my parents, and of course they didn't notice my signs of asthma either.

They also gave me total control of my medicine at an early age, which lead to many skipped doses and scrips not getting filled -- including my Alupent. What were they thinking? Didn't they remember that kids have other things on their minds other than medicine and asthma?

Kerry kind of got me to thinking this: why is it that asthma tends to get better as we grow up? Why is it that for many child asthmatics, the asthma seems to go away?

Of course one might argue that the lungs are bigger, and better capable of managing asthma triggers. Although I'm now wondering if one of the biggest reasons is that an adult can choose where he sleeps, and can choose what people he hangs around, and where he spends his time.

When you're a kid, even a teenager, you still have to sleep in the room your parents made for you, regardless of the allergens present. As an adult, you have total control. When you're a kid you're more likely to roll around in the allergen filled dirt and grass, and even as a teen you play sports in the dirt and grass. Adults do less of those things.

I grew up with uncontrolled asthma, although sometimes I wonder if my parents were better educated if my asthma would have been better controlled. My parents were great, if not brilliant, at parenting, and I hold nothing against them.

They did what other parents would do for the era I grew up in. Back then we never wore seat belts either. I remember falling asleep in the back window, standing up, and on the floor of the car. I remember going to Florida in a van with a bed, and my brothers and I loafed on the bed almost the entire trip.

Yet here's the kicker: As we learn better, we do better. Back in 1980 those things were normal. By 2010 standards, those things are abnormal. Of course, Lord knows there are still unwise parents out there. And that's fine, because in America you have the right to be ignorant, and you have a right to be wrong.

Yet, ironically, I have a daughter with asthma, and her asthma is controlled. Sometimes I wonder if she didn't have this asthma wise parent if her asthma just might be uncontrolled. Yet it's fine and dandy to me if she remains oblivious of this. Isn't it funny how she may forever be oblivious to how well she has it right now?

So I suppose in this way ignorance can be both bad and good. It's good my daughter doesn't have to experience the trials and trivializations of asthma. Yet, I wonder if being shielded in this way she may not have the wisdom if, say, she has a child with asthma. In this way, will she become my (our) parents, and, hence, the cycle continues.

I suppose you can tie this to freedom. The founding fathers knew the trials and trivializations of living under the tyranny of a king. Yet, over 230 years later, is it possible we forgot the wisdom of our fathers and mothers that we have allowed our nation to tax us without representation, the same system that lead to our Independence in the first place.

The cure for stopping this cycle is education. Just like our parents need to make sure kids are educated about the hardships of past generations, parents of asthmatics need to continuously educate themselves and their children how to live a good life even though you have asthma.

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