An estimate of 1 in 10 children in Australia has asthma, making it the most common childhood condition in the nation. Yet, if a child’s asthma is properly managed and controlled, they will still be able to take part in all of their usual activities. One of the most crucial way parents can help manage their child’s asthma is through an asthma action plan.
“The aim of an asthma action plan is to help a person with asthma and their carer take early action to prevent or reduce the severity of an asthma attack,” says Siobhan Brophy from the National Asthma Council Australia.
“The asthma action plan is personalised according to the pattern of that person’s own asthma. In children, plans based on symptoms are preferred. In most children with asthma, change in symptoms is just as effective as peak flow for indicating that asthma is getting worse,” explains Brophy.
Research has shown that children with an asthma action plan have fewer asthma attacks, better controlled asthma in general, take fewer days off school, use their reliever medications less and have fewer hospital visits.
Asthma in children doesn’t have to mean the end of running and
Nicole Thomas discusses the importance of an asthma action plan in helping manage childhood
Symptoms of asthma in children
If your child hasn’t been diagnosed with asthma yet, but is displaying any of the following symptoms, you should consult your doctor.
Wheezing: a continuous and high-pitched sound that comes from their chest when breathing
Shortness of breath: a sensation of not being able to inhale enough air
A feeling of tightness in the chest
Coughing (alongside other symptoms).
You do not need to have every one of these symptoms to be diagnosed with asthma. Also, Brophy notes that noisy breathing, such as a rattling sound, is quite common in healthy babies and preschoolers – this is not the same as wheezing so doesn’t mean the child has asthma.
“Asthma is tricky to diagnose in infants and preschoolers. Wheezing is very common in the first few years of life. For most children it is temporary and does not mean that they have asthma. Wheezing is more likely to be related to asthma if a child has both persistent wheezing and allergies. It is also more likely when one or both of the parents has allergies or asthma. However, the doctor may not be completely sure whether it is asthma until the child can do a lung function test. The child can still be treated in the meantime, but a formal diagnosis of asthma won’t be made,” she says.
Making an asthma action plan
If your child has been diagnosed with asthma, you and your child should develop an asthma action plan together with your doctor. When developing a plan, Brophy recommends discussing the following: what you hope to gain from the asthma treatment and if you have any goals (for example, for your child to be able to participate in school sport without asthma symptoms) and any concerns (for example, potential side effects of medication).
When mapping out a treatment, Brophy also states that medication should be prescribed at the lowest dose that works for the child, “There’s no extra benefit in taking medicines that are stronger than you need,” she says.
After the plan is developed, it will be given to you, as the parent or carer, to keep in order to remind you of common asthma triggers, your child’s medication dose, what symptoms to look for, and what to do if your child starts to feel unwell. “If you are the parent or carer of a child with asthma, you might like to get extra copies made of their asthma action plan so you can give one to your child’s grandparents or any other regular carers. You should also give a copy to your child’s school, pre-school and/or childcare facility,” advises Brophy.
The end game of an asthma treatment is to help children live as wholly as possible and to enjoy the same activities as their peers. More specifically though, the aims of asthma treatments are to help keep symptoms in check, prevent potential asthma attacks, keep lungs as healthy as possible and stop asthma from interfering with school.
astHma in nUmbers •Around 2.3 million Australians
•asthma is two times more prevalent in indigenous australians than non-indigenous australians
•Asthma is more common in
males in the 0-14 year age group •37,500 asthma-related
hospitalisations in 2012/13
some Useful contacts
Asthma Australia www.asthmaaustralia.org.au 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462) National Asthma Council Australia www.nationalasthma.org.au +61 3 9929 4333
1800 032 495 email@example.com