Australian Health Today - - Contents -

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

have asthma

•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.asth­maaus­ 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462) Na­tional Asthma Coun­cil Aus­tralia­tion­ +61 3 9929 4333

1800 032 495 nac@na­tion­

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