What are some ways parents can help their child transition to self-management of their asthma or allergies?

Don Bukstein, MD responds: Parents often ask me for advice on getting their adolescent or teenager to take on more responsibility of managing their allergies or asthma.

One thing to do is frequent teach-back. Ask your adolescent or teen with asthma questions such as:

  • Do you know how to use your quick-relief inhaler?
  • When should you use your inhaler?
  • Where do you keep your inhaler when you’re at school?
  • Do you use your controller inhaler every day?
  • Where do you keep your controller inhaler – in the bathroom or by the side of the bed?

If there’s a food allergy, ask these questions:

  • Do you know how to use your epinephrine auto-injector?
  • When should you use your epinephrine auto-injector?
  • Where do you keep it when you’re at school?

Then ask your teen to demonstrate proper inhaler usage and/or epinephrine auto-injector technique.

Create specific role-play scenarios. This can help your teen better understand what to do in certain situations and make the best decision possible.

Plan some rewards. For example, offer more responsibility – maybe tie it to use of the car on Saturday night if your teen is old enough. Give positive feedback and encouragement with the occasional “good job!”

Finally, talk openly to your child about any concerns or worries. Adolescents and teens want to talk – they need to express some of their fears and anxieties about how well their asthma and allergies are controlled.

If you do these things, you’re going to be well on the way to enabling your adolescent or teen to take over their care.

Don Bukstein, MD, FACAAI, is a board-certified allergist/immunologist and pediatric pulmonologist with Allergy Asthma Sinus Center in Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin. He serves as Medical Director with Allergy & Asthma Network.

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