Asthma care for children
It can be downright scary to witness your child suffering from an
asthma attack. As they struggle to breathe you may feel helpless until
you reach the emergency room or the rescue medication begins to work.
This traditional way of dealing with asthma - reacting to flare-ups
as opposed to preventing them - can be frustrating. More than one of
these experiences may prompt you to search for a better way to help
your child manage his or her asthma.
Studies in adults are showing that a proactive, preventive approach
works better than a reactive one at helping asthma sufferers control
their symptoms. To determine whether the same is true in children, researchers
in Australia recently conducted a study comparing the effects of proactive
care to those of traditional routine on the symptoms of asthmatic children.
The proactive approach included three or more doctor-prompted pre-scheduled
visits during a month when the child was well. During appointments, the
doctor discussed with the child his or her understanding of asthma, reviewed
the proper use of inhalers and inhalation devices, and developed a written
The results of the study showed the proactive approach helped children
manage their asthma better than routine care. Far fewer children in the
intervention group used rescue medication more than four times a week
compared to children in the control group (9% compared to 30%). Children
who received proactive care also had fewer visits to the emergency room
for their asthma and less speech-limiting wheezing than children who
did not. As a result of what they had learned, these children were more
likely to use metered-dose inhalers with spacers, which allow more medication
to reach the lungs.
Even so, the number of symptom-free days and days missed from school
did not differ between the two groups. This may suggest, however, that
the children in the proactive group and their parents were more aware
of and more cautious about asthma symptoms. Children in the proactive
group did perform higher in measures of lung capacity, meaning they had
better control of their asthma. So while proactive measures do not eliminate
asthma, they do appear to improve management.
To help your child manage his or her asthma, talk with your doctor about
scheduling a visit to discuss asthma when your child is well. With an understanding
of asthma and how to properly use medications, your child will be better
able to manage and reduce the effects of this chronic disease.
March 2004 Update
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