Asthma is a chronic, or long-term, disease. If you have asthma, at times your airways (the air passages of your lungs) become inflamed (see picture). When this happens, your airways get red and swollen. They become narrow, making it harder for you to breathe. You may also wheeze or cough. This is called an asthma flare-up (or “attack”).
A big part of keeping asthma under control and preventing flares is to make sure your child takes everyday medicines regularly even when feeling well. This isn’t easy, but it is critically important to managing asthma. Nobody likes to take medicine every day. People remember to take medicine when they are sick because they want to feel better. But it’s normal for children, as well as adults, to overlook daily medicine when they feel fine.
Although there is no cure for asthma, there are some excellent medicines available to help you to control your asthma so that is does not interfere with your daily life. There are two main types of medicines for asthma:
* Quick-relief medicinestaken at the first signs of asthma symptoms for immediate relief of these symptoms. You will feel the effects of these medicines within minutes.
* Long-term control medicinestaken every day, usually over long periods of time, to prevent symptoms and asthma episodes or attacks. You will feel the full effects of these medicines after taking them for a few weeks. People with persistent asthma need long-term control medicines.
Parents can take several steps to make taking asthma medicines a normal part of life and not a daily battle.
Explain why the medicine is needed. Because children and adults feel the benefits of quick-relief medicines right away, they immediately understand why they need them. Taking everyday medicines to prevent symptoms is a bigger challenge. Explain, in language your child will understand, that this medicine keeps asthma away just like daily toothbrushing keeps cavities away.
Be firm and matter-of-fact without nagging. Once your child understands that taking the daily medicine is simply the way it is-it’s not negotiable or optional he’ll accept the situation. And you can always say, “The doctor said.”
Set a routine. Many parents find that setting up a regular routine helps their child remember to take the medicine every day at the same time. If your child uses inhaled steroids, for example, a good time to take the medicine would be right before he brushes his teeth in the morning and at night. This helps him take the medicine regularly, and it also makes sure he rinses out his mouth after using it. For any once-a-day medicine, set a time to take the medicine, such as at breakfast or dinner.
When your child first starts to take everyday asthma medicines, you and he probably won’t notice much improvement right away. Improvement happens gradually, usually over several weeks. After a couple of months on the medicine, your child should have fewer or no asthma symptoms. At this point, help him look back over the past couple of months. When you count up all the nights he slept straight through and the days he went to school and played normally, you’ll both realize that the everyday medicines really are helping. That should do a lot to help everyone stick with the medicine routine.