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Thursday, March 10, 2011

How To Help Your Child Deal With An Asthma Attack

The first time I had an asthma attack, my mom and dad were out for the evening. I was five-years-old.

My memory of that time was of myself lying on my parents' bed (a place I normally wasn't allowed – the babysitter put me there), my parents rushing home, the doctor making a house call (I realize I'm giving away my age here), and hearing the doctor utter the words, "She's having an asthma attack."

Upon hearing the word, "asthma," I noted the look of surprise and fear on my mother's face and thought, "Look at all the attention I'm getting by having asthma (a word I'd never heard before)." I watched my parents' facial expressions contort in ways I'd never before seen.

Looking back, I can't remember my breathing difficulty – I don't think I even realized I was sick. All I remember is being in my parents' bed surrounded by my parents, the doctor, and the babysitter, and hearing the words, asthma attack.

Over the years, asthma attacks have often put me in the emergency room. And from the time I was five, I was forced to take a pill called Tedral that, if any part of my tongue touched any part of it, I would have to fight back the urge to vomit. Nothing in my entire life has ever tasted so awful.

What causes asthma attacks?

My first asthma attack probably arose because my parents had never gone out together, leaving my sisters and me home with a babysitter. I may have been experiencing my first traumatic case of separation anxiety.

Excessive physical activity can bring on asthma attacks too, especially when the immune system is already compromised by colds, flu, or disease.

My asthma attacks were triggered by a variety of stimuli – allergies to eggs, yeast, grasses, molds, dust, smoke, and animals.

But what surprised me more than anything was when fits of laughter landed me in the ER – I have laughed myself into asthma attacks numerous times.

Another precursor for asthma attacks is the common cold. Colds seem to trickle downward in asthmatics. What starts out as a head cold, lands in the throat, and eventually makes its way into the lungs where the cold blossoms into a full-fledged asthma attack.

As I grew older, I relied more heavily on inhalers than I did on Tedral, because back then, parents didn't have the option of keeping nebulizers in their homes.

Today a couple of my grandchildren, when their breathing becomes labored, rely on nebulizers to control their attacks.

What helps prevent asthma attacks from becoming worse?

One of the things I noticed growing up was the reaction of people around me while I was in the midst of having an asthma attack.

Seeing my mom and dad panic had become a common occurrence. I never knew, as a child, that I could have died from having an asthma attack. But what made asthma attacks worse for me was seeing fear in the faces of people in the medical profession. I recount two extremely frightening episodes in my article, Three Weeks in the Hospital -- Two Near Death Experiences.

Knowing how to treat your asthmatic child, mentally, emotionally, and physically, will lessen the trauma for you and for your child.

How to Treat Your Asthmatic Child

Though every fiber of your being jumps into overdrive, calm down. From my experience, asthmatics are sensitive individuals and your panic will cause them to breathe even harder and their lungs to constrict even tighter.

When the nurses surrounded my bed, as related in the link I've provided above, their actions were supposed to comfort me. Though they rubbed my back, my arms, and spoke soothingly, their faces displayed the truth of their concern – I knew unequivocally that they thought I would die if the doctor's approval for a breathing treatment didn't happen NOW.

The best way to prevent an asthma attack is to be prepared for one. Be proactive by purchasing a portable nebulizer. Learn how to use it. Rid your home of all possible allergens. Sadly, you may have to find a new home for your pet.

Do not smoke in front of your child and do not allow others to smoke in your home. If you eat out, choose only smoke-free restaurants.  

If your child experiences asthma attacks frequently, find a pulmonary doctor who will treat your child with effective medications. Sometimes, as in my case, your child may have to take daily medication for most (or all) of his or her life. But sometimes, children who are born with asthma outgrow their asthma.

Not being able to breath is frightening. Don't take your child's breathing for granted.

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