Raising a child who has asthma can be challenging, particularly when they are in somebody else's care, be that at school, visiting a friend's house, participating in sport or going on school camp.
New and unfamiliar environments can pose unforeseen problems that could trigger your child's asthma. Good communication and a little planning can ensure that any activity they take part in is loads of fun for all concerned.
Here are some tips for how to best manage some of these situations so that both you and your child have peace of mind, knowing their asthma is well managed and that you have a clear asthma action plan in case of emergency.
School at any time of the year can pose new threats for children with asthma but the start of term tends to hold the most risk. This is due to increased exposure to schoolmates' cold and flu bugs, as well as stress, a change of environment, allergens, and less strict asthma management during the school holidays. Here's what you can do:
Try to keep your child's asthma routine consistent throughout the year, including having them take their preventer medication every day if prescribed.
Pack a reliever puffer and spacer in their school bag each day. Check the puffer isn't empty or past its expiry date.
Ensure your child is confident in using their medication on their own (if they are old enough) and that they feel comfortable in asking a teacher for help if they need it.
Give the school and teacher a copy of your child's written asthma action plan and make sure that they understand what is required for your child as every child with asthma is different. As most schools now have access to mobile devices such as iPads, you may wish to give them an electronic version of your child's action plan using the Asthma Buddy app (available on both Android and Apple devices. Find out more at http://www.nationalasthma.org.au/asthma-tools/asthma-action-plans/asthmabuddy.
Children love sleeping over at their friends' houses and children with asthma are no different. With the right preparation it can be a stress-free and fun evening for you, your child and the adult in charge.
Make sure your child's asthma is well controlled before allowing them to stay over at a friend's place.
It is also important that they feel OK about asking for help if they experience any symptoms during their stay.
Ensure that their friend's home is cigarette/smoke free and ask if pets can remain outside, if you child is allergic to them.
Dealing with dust at someone's place can be a bit tricky and you certainly don't want to offend. We suggest that you provide a sleeping bag plus a plastic sheet or sleeping mat that can be put between the floor, plus their own pillow and bedding to help reduce the chance of dust mite triggers.
Put their medications plus their asthma action plan into their bag where they can easily get to it if needed. If you child is too young to manage this themselves, then make sure the adults in charge, including grandparents and relatives, understand what is involved.
Let everyone involved know if there are activities that could trigger an asthma attack e.g. pillow fights or activities like hide-and-seek in high pollen areas.
Always remember to leave your contact number in case anyone has any questions.
Who doesn't love school camp? A time when you get to be away from the classroom, from your parents and get to hang out doing fun activities with your school friends. Most of our tips for sleepovers apply here as well, but here are a couple of others.
Ensure that the school has an up-to-date copy of your child's asthma action plan as well as enough medication to last the entire trip, plus some extra in case.
Remind your child that they need to be responsible for taking their preventer medication every day, if prescribed. If your child has a mobile phone that they are allowed to use on camp, you could send a text reminder each day.
Make sure that the teachers or parents supervising the trip understand how to treat your child should they experience as asthma attack, particularly if they are travelling to remote locations.
Be aware that smoke from campfires are a common asthma trigger and one that teachers should be aware of.
If using a tent, it is important to check for mould as this too is a common asthma trigger.
Parents often ask whether their child should avoid exercise if they have asthma. The answer is no. Asthma symptoms that are caused by exercise can be controlled very well with medications. Having asthma is not a reason to prevent your child from participating in sport and other physical activities that they love.
It is important to prepare your child properly to avoid symptoms occurring during exercise, especially if the air is dry or cold.
Often children need to take a reliever just before they exercise. It is a good idea to discuss this with your child's doctor to determine what is right for your child.
Being fit and active can in fact help your child to cope better with an asthma attack, so encourage them to take up a sport where they can be active, socialize and most importantly have some fun.
Asthma is a treatable health condition and although at present there is no cure, with good management, your child can lead a normal, active life.
For more information contact National Asthma Council Australia – www.nationalasthma.org.au
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