An open letter to parents of children with asthma
Parents of asthmatic children worry a lot. They worry about the fact that their child has to take medicines everyday. They worry about the side effects of medicines. They worry when the child has symptoms and misses school and they fear acute attacks. It’s not only about a disease, but also about emotions.
Actually, they need not. Here is my advice to parents of children who have asthma.
1. ACCEPT: Parents don’t like to be told that their child has asthma.Doctors also know this. So they couch the diagnosis in nicer sounding words like "Allergy" or "Bronchitis" or "Chest Congestion". This only delays proper treatment. So my sincere advice is to accept the diagnosis and then start looking for practical and doable solutions.
2. ATTITUDE: Have you noticed how parent’s attitude and feelings are imbibed by children ? If the mother is constantly critical of the maid, the child also starts saying "Aya is bad". Or if the father say " Oh my poor baby, you have to wear spectacles at such a young age", the child also resents wearing glasses rather than feeling happy about the fact that she can now see clearly with them !
The same is the case with asthma, asthma medications and particularly with inhalers. If the mother’s constant refrain is " when will be able to stop these inhalers ?", the child will also view them negatively. If, on the other hand, the mother shows gratitude and happiness over the fact that there is a devise that is so easy to use and really helps the child to breath normally, the same positive feelings will be imbibed by the child.
3. REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS: Some children do outgrow their asthma. Some don’t. It is largely determined by the genes over which we don’t have control. Yes, environmental control and diet regulation helps. If the child is to outgrow asthma, it would happen over years and not in days, weeks or months.
With proper medications, the asthmatic child is usually well controlled in the sense that there are no ongoing symptoms or limitations of activities. However, with change of season or with a virus infection, some symptoms will appear. This is not unexpected. A slight increase in medications will usually bring things back to normal control.
4. ALTERNATIVE SYSTEMS: Alternative systems like yoga, homeopathy, ayurveda and naturopathy do have something to offer to help asthmatics. They don’t help all patients. They don’t help all patients equally. If you have faith, you could try them.But my advice would be to not to stop the normal treatment suddenly.
5. CARE YES; PAMPERING NO: Mothers sometimes try to over-compensate the asthmatic child by over pampering. This never helps. Infact, it creates further difficulties in that the child starts using the asthma, sometimes sub-consciously, to get his way.
6. ENCOURAGE SPORTS: The asthmatic child gets out of breath easily and thus is usually never really "into sports". But with proper control of asthma, the child can and should have a normal life including participation in sports. This should be encouraged. It is very good for the child’s self esteem. Sports involving spurts of activity are usually better tolerated than prolonged exertion like long distance running. Swimming is usually good.
7. PARTNERSHIP WITH THE DOCTOR: Sometimes, the anger or frustration, related to the diagnosis of asthma is misdirected towards the doctor. But really, he is part of the solution rather than a part of the problem. Be friends with him. That way he will be able to to help your child better