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Monday, June 1, 2009

My easy to follow asthma guide for parents

There have always been "asthma guides" for children. In the 1800s Teddy Roosevelt's parents consulted one of the best asthma experts of that time, Henry Hyde Salter, who later wrote a book called On Asthma, the most well respected book on asthma at that time.

Granted, if you were to read that book today, you would be vexed to learn your asthma is "all in your head." You would also be vexed to learn that the best cures for treating asthma are cigarette smoke and alcohol until your child puked, or simply having your child down a dose of Ipecac.

Hey, if you don't believe me you can read the book.

When I was born in 1970 asthma wisdom had improved a great deal since the days Teddy Roosevelt suffered from asthma. Yet, even though there was some great new asthma wisdom, this wisdom was not making it all the way to doctors, let alone terrified moms and dads and patients.

We can't blame doctors for this lack of asthma wisdom, as they were victims of the era they were doctoring in. For example, it wasn't Dr. Gunderson's fault that he gave me antibiotics when I was less than three months old, something we now know is not good for children with the asthma gene because germs are needed for the normal immunological maturation process.

It wasn't his fault that he told me to quit taking my inhaled corticosteroid because he thought the side effects would be as bad as systemic corticosteroids. Not only that, most doctors were taught to treat only the acute symptoms of asthma back then -- it wasn't treated as a chronic inflammatory disease it is today.

There were a few packets my mom and dad received from my doctor about asthma, but they were not very useful. And no one ever sat down with mom and dad to explain to them how to prevent me from having asthma attacks.

No one taught them how to observe the signs that I was having an asthma attack, so I'd often suffer for days without anyone even knowing. And, since I was a little boy, I just thought it was normal to feel this way.

When my grandpa smoked in front of me he gave little thought to the damage he was doing to my lungs. It wasn't his fault. It wasn't my parents fault for having me spend so much time at grandma and grandpa's house. Besides, I loved spending time there.

And when I was at school, and my teacher yelled at me because I quit playing a game of baseball because I was not feeling well, I was forced to finish the game. I'd say that event effected my life in the most negative way possible, and caused me to avoid other people.

It wasn't my parents fault that they trusted me to take my medicines on my own when I was 10. They never had a chronic disease when they were a kid, so they didn't know I wouldn't be compliant.

Besides, neither my teachers, my grandparents, nor my parents ever suffered from asthma, so how were they to know how miserable I was feeling -- other than when they watched me gasp for air. I suppose in a way, when that happens, parents suffer with the child.

Either way, there were no asthma guidelines until 1991, which didn't help me much when I was going to the ER every other day in 1984. Ironically, though, there was some great asthma wisdom that existed back then, only most doctors weren't aware of it.

So, as my asthma got so bad and I was shipped to the Asthma Hospital in Denver (it was called National Asthma Center/ National Jewish Hospital back then), for the first time in my life I was taught all the things that almost all doctors know today, and most asthma patients are exposed to so they don't have to keep returning to the hospital, and what we asthma experts teach all the time.

Actually, the asthma program I attended in 1985 doesn't even exist anymore. I recently talked with the public affairs person at National Jewish Health, and she said instead of having asthmatics spent 2-6 months admitted at their institution they send doctors out to in service other doctors about the asthma guidelines, and how to treat their asthmatic patients.

(National Jewish still has asthma programs, just not the one that existed in 1985.)

Yes, it is impressive how far asthma wisdom has progress since I was an asthmatic child. However, it is also unfortunate that some parents still are not privy to all this great new wisdom. So, to make it simple, I have created guideline for parents based on my own experience and expertise.

In fact, the guidelines I wrote are the exact guidelines I wish my parents would have been privy to way back in 1972 when I was a two-year-old boy just diagnosed with asthma. If my parents had had this wisdom, there is a great chance my asthma never would have become Hardluck Asthma.

Thankfully, with all this new asthma wisdom, and with most doctors being privy to it, there is no reason most asthmatics should ever have difficult to manage asthma like I had when I was a kid. It simply shouldn't happen anymore.

Although it still does. It does because some patients don't have access to the great wisdom. Perhaps they are victims of poverty or have no transportation to get to doctors. Perhaps they don't have Gallant Doctors. Or perhaps their parents just flat out aren't aware of what asthma is and how to treat it.

For this reason, I have created easy to follow asthma guidelines for parents.

So, without further adieu, click here and I will morph you over to my latest article at 10 tips for raising a child with asthma.

10 Tips For Raising A Child With Asthma
by Rick Frea Wednesday, May 27, 2009

So you watched as your or son (or daughter) struggled for air and felt helpless. You listened as his docter said the words, "Your son has asthma." Now what do you do?

Thankfully for you asthma wisdom and resources have impoved impressively since
I grew up with asthma in the 1970s and 80s. While I suffered many nights, and missed many days of school, that should be a rare occurance in today's asthmatic world.

Of the 20 million Americans with Asthma, about
7 million are children. And while managing adult asthma is a challenge in itself, managing children with asthma is especially challenging because most children depend on adults like you.

Thus, in a way, as the child suffers so does the entire family. So you, as an asthma mom, dad or guardian, have some work to do. With your help, your guidance, your child can lead a normal, active life.

So, that in mind, here is your 10 step guide to raising an asthmatic child (Follow the links for more asthma wisdom):

1. Asthma wisdom: You need to know more than the doctor about asthma. It's that simple. By reading this post, and hanging around our site, and
asking questions, you are taking the most important step to good asthma management. You must read as much about asthma as you can possibly absorb. The best place to start is right here.

You at least should know the asthma basics, which is that asthma has two components: bronchospasm and inflammation.
Bronchospasm: This is when the passages in the lungs become narrowed, trapping air in the lungs, and making it hard to breath.

Inflammation: Most asthmatics have a chronic reddening or swelling of the air passages in the lungs. If this is not treated it can lead to worsening bronchospasm.

2. Asthma doctor: Sure your son's already been seeing a doctor, you now need to make sure this is the best person to help you manage your son's asthma. A good asthma doctor will prescribe the best meds for your child, and will listen to recommendations you have and work with you in managing your son's asthma. (click here for more great advice).

Asthma triggers: For every asthmatic there are many different things that trigger an asthma attack. You must be very observant and work with your child's pediatrician to learn what your child's triggers are and how to help him avoid them or deal with them. If all else fails, there are meds that may help, like antihystamines, leukotriene blockers, nasal sprays or allergy shots. (For more wisdom click here and here.)

Early Warning Signs: A neat thing about asthma is it has early warning signs that it is about to come about. If you are vigilant (and well educated), you should be able to pick up on these early signs and treat them according to your Asthma Action Plan (see #6 below).

Late Warning Signs: A challenge in managing a child's asthma is they may be unaware they are having asthma symptoms. They might be short-of-breath and just think it's normal. Or they may be embarrased. Therefore, it is your job to know the late warning signs of asthma and treat them according to your Asthma Action Plan.

Asthma Action Plan: This is why you need a good doctor. You need to work with your child and your child's asthma doctor in creating a good Asthma Action Plan that works best for your child.

Involve other people: Basically, every single person involved in the care of your child should be aware that your child has asthma and how to spot the early and late signs of asthma. Plus, all these adults need to be clued into your child's Asthma Action Plan so your child can get the best care possible no matter where he is.

This includes teachers, principals, day care center employees, grandparents, uncles, and even brothers and sisters.

Rescue Medicine: Rescue inhalers are used to treat bronchospasm. They relax the lungs, open the airways, and often cause instant relief. The most common bronchodilators are Albuterol and Xopenex. You must make sure your child's rescue medicine is handy wherever your child is, including home, school, daycare, vacation, etc. (For more wisdom click here and here.)

Controller (Preventative) Medicine: When your child is exposed to a trigger, this can irritate already sensitive airways due to chronic inflammation. Therefore, if your child has more than the "occasional" asthma attack, a good doctor will recommend your child use an inhaled corticosteroid.

The most common prescribed corticosteroids today are the
Flovent Discus and Pulmicort inhalent to be taken in a nebulizer breathing treatment. (For more info. click here)

10. Always be vigilant: To the best of your ability, try to stay in tune with your child. Basically this would entail following steps 1 through 10.

By following this guide to the best of your ability you will be helping your child lead a normal, active life. And when he does have trouble breathing, you or other adults in your child's life will know exactly what to do.

(To follow the tale of an asthma mom who does a great job managing her child's asthma,
check out this great site!)

1 comment:

Birdie said...

I am so happy asthma is better understood today. I was misdiagnosed for years and didn't find out till I was an adult that my 'coughing' was actually asthma. Now I have medication that keeps it under control.