Managing your child’s asthma can become second-nature
By Lynn Utzman-Nichols
Cindy Coopersmith, Asthma Educator with Poudre Valley Health System (PVHS), not only teaches about asthma—she lives it. And so does her daughter. “When the doctor used the word asthma to describe my toddler’s wheezing, I cried. Psychologically, I didn’t want to believe it because I had it myself. I knew how hard it can be.”
Every month, Cindy offers the “Taming the Tiger” class through PVHS in Fort Collins—a class designed for kids with asthma and their parents. The class is full of great tips and tools to help families manage asthma. Here, Cindy shares information on how to determine if your child has asthma and how to maintain daily control over symptoms.
“It’s hard for parents to hear that their child has a chronic condition, might have to take medicines daily and that those medicines contain ‘scary’ steroids,” says Coopersmith. The good news is that once control is achieved, asthma doesn’t have to limit a child’s life or activity level. “Plus, the amount of steroids in daily medicine is too small to be dangerous. There are several studies that show it is safe, even for very young children,” adds Coopersmith.
Is it asthma?
Diagnosing asthma can be tricky. Sometimes kids only have symptoms during certain times of year, say soccer season or during peak pollen days. Other times parents notice their child tends to have a semi-regular cough, or seems to get wheezy quickly with colds.
“I often ask parents, ‘how are they when they run?’ Being wheezy during exercise is common with asthma,” says Coopersmith. Yet it’s not always obvious. You might assume your son is out of shape, especially if he’s overweight. Or, instead of saying it hurts to breathe, your daughter might simply say she doesn’t like sports and avoid physical activity altogether.
“Classic symptoms of asthma include coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, an increased respiratory rate and the appearance that your child tugs to breathe—a pulling in at the ribs with each breath seen in infants and young children,” says Coopersmith. If these symptoms wake your child up at night or early in the morning, that’s an extra clue that it might be asthma. Asthma can set in at any age.
Technically, doctors don’t diagnose asthma unless they hear wheezing on three different occasions. “When you go to your doctor to explore asthma symptoms, be a good reporter. Tell the doctor your child’s history. Mention all instances of breathing problems that you remember over her lifetime,” advises Coopersmith.