How to Help Your Child Identify Their Asthma Triggers

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Allergens
Every child with asthma needs to be tested to find out what they have specific allergies. Not all asthma is triggered by allergens but the great majority of kids with asthma have an allergy to something. Skin tests are done by an allergist, a physician who specializes in this field. Common allergens are pets (in particular cats), dust (it’s the dust mites), foods, mold, cockroaches, and outdoor allergens such as trees, ragweed, and other pollens. It will be up to you as the parent to keep the house clean and take other precautions if the culprits are dust and mold. You can teach your child to avoid specific pets and foods. Depending on the age of the child, use language appropriate to their level of understanding that certain pets and foods will have an affect on their breathing. You could say, for example, “Johnny, when you get near cats you will have a hard time playing because your chest will get tight and you won’t have enough air to run.” “When you go to someones house be sure to ask if they have cats before you go inside.” Check for understanding. Since your child will have already experienced a tight chest and trouble breathing they should easily make the connection.

Exercise
Some kids will have exercise induced asthma. This is a tough one. Your child needs exercise to keep down their weight, build lung capacity, and to have fun with other kids. For this type of trigger, kids need to be taught to use an inhaler before they run or do any kind of exercise that requires a lot of exertion. For younger kids, you’ll need to be more involved in this process; older kids will learn from experience that using their inhaler before exercising will be essential if they want to stay in the game. Some forms of exercise are less likely to induce asthma such as swimming, but some kids are also allergic to chlorine used in pools, so as a parent you’ll need to assess that possibility.

Irritants and Weather
Cigarette smoke (included smoke on clothing), pollution, perfume, and other strong odors can be triggers as well as cold weather. My parents smoked when I was a kid and I’m sure it contributed to my asthma attacks. If you smoke, get help to stop by asking your doctors about programs in the area. Also see resources below. If you are in the process of quitting, smoke outside and wear different clothes when you smoke. I know this is a pain but the smoke from clothing can also trigger an attack. Avoid wearing perfume if you notice that this is triggering your kid’s attacks. Keep your kid indoors on days when there are pollution alerts or bring them to an indoor play area. For kids who are sensitive to the cold, teach them to wear a scarf around their face so that they aren’t breathing in the cold air directly.

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