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Teenagers and Asthma

KidsHealth.org Wed May 18, 2005

Adolescence can be a rough time for kids, and it can be even tougher for kids who have asthma. The last thing teens want their friends to know is that they are "different." Here are some tips to make parenting an adolescent with asthma a bit easier:

  • Many adolescents don't want to take medication in front of their friends, so talk with your child's doctor to find out if your child's daily preventive medication can be taken at home in the morning and evening. This approach can make taking asthma medication part of a morning or nighttime routine, just like brushing teeth or taking a shower. It will also allow parents to make sure their kids are getting all the medication they need.
  • Many kids who have asthma, especially teens, stop taking their daily preventive medications and rely only upon their quick-relief inhalers. This can be dangerous and even fatal. If this becomes a concern, discuss it with your child's doctor immediately.
  • It's very common for adolescents to deny that they have asthma, so they may stop taking medications and have more flares and symptoms. If this happens, you may need to monitor your adolescent's care until he or she is ready to do it alone. Many parents have found it helpful to use a peak flow meter (a handheld tool that can be used at home to measure breathing ability) as the final word on whether an adolescent needs to increase medication to prevent a flare. When peak flow readings drop, it's a sign of increasing airway inflammation. The peak flow meter can detect subtle airway inflammation and obstruction, even when a child feels fine. In some cases, it can detect drops in peak flow readings 2 to 3 days before a flare occurs, providing plenty of time to treat and prevent it. Peak flow meters never lie, so kids can't deny they're having a problem - and parents are less likely to be seen as the bad guys or overprotective, forcing their kids to take medication unnecessarily.
  • Remember to maintain your child's dignity and involvement when dealing with asthma. Older children should be actively included in all discussions and treatment choices because they are the ones who ultimately have to deal with side effects and daily compliance.

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