Keep children's asthma symptoms at bay this summer

By Michele Goldman, FNP  |  7/9/2018

Summer has finally arrived, and that means outdoor fun, exercise and new adventures for families. However, a change in routines, activities, caregivers and environments can impact children with asthma.

Summer preparedness

While enjoying the summer months, it is important to take steps to educate family, friends and caregivers about your child's asthma and medications. Asthma is a chronic disease that causes airways to become inflamed, making it difficult to breathe. The most common symptoms include:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Tightening of the chest
  • Shortness of breath

The following steps will ensure your child has a safe transition from home to summer camps and programs:

  • Understand your child's asthma medications.

Although you may be aware of where medications are kept in your home and how they work, it is important to share this information with your child and their caregivers so they know what medicine to provide, the proper dosage and how often it should be administered.

 For example:

  • Can your child self-administer their medications, or will an adult need to learn how to properly administer it on their behalf?
  • Oral medications should only be administered by an adult.
  • A "rescue," or emergency inhaler, is used in emergency situations when one has difficulty breathing, or prior to exercise to avoid symptoms, while a "maintenance," or control inhaler, is taken regularly to prevent asthma attacks and lessen the severity of symptoms.

Every Sunday, confirm medications are readily available for the week, and always review the expiration date of medications and inhalers.

  • Create your plan of action before an emergency.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America offers an Asthma Action Plan template to help families create a plan of action for moderate, intermediate and severe asthma attacks. The document outlines common symptoms associated with the three levels of severity, what medication should be administered, the specific dosage and how often it should be provided – all important information to review with your child and caregivers.

  • Avoid known triggers in the environment.

When individuals with asthma are exposed to substances they are sensitive to, also known as triggers, they can experience an asthma attack (asthma exacerbation).  Attacks result in moderate to severe coughing, wheezing and trouble breathing.

Common triggers include, but are not limited to:

  • Smoke
  • Heat
  • Humidity
  • Pollen
  • Grasses
  • Mold
  • Trees
  • Pets

Air conditioners, bedding and carpeting, if not cleaned regularly, can also distribute dust and debris into the air, triggering an attack.

  • Report and record symptoms.

When your child experiences asthma-related symptoms, it is important to log when symptoms occur, when medication was provided and at what intervals. This provides your child and caregivers access to necessary information that can aid in the avoidance of future attacks.

Most importantly, encourage your child to report any breathing symptoms right away and avoid waiting until someone else notices they are having trouble breathing.

Michele Goldman is a family nurse practitioner at Health Quest Medical Practice's primary care office in New Paltz, NY. To schedule an appointment, call 845-255-5450 (TTY: 800-421-1220). To learn more about primary care services, visit healthquest.org/primarycare.