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Approximately 6.8 million children live with asthma in the United States. How can parents empower themselves and their children to better manage asthma? What are the signs of an asthma flare and what are some common asthma triggers?  In our latest “Kids Breathe Better” podcast, join pediatric nurse practitioner Jodie Stabinski, RN, as she discusses practical tips and strategies to manage your child’s asthma.

You can download the podcast via PodBean, Apple or Google Play for listening anytime, anywhere.

This podcast is sponsored by Allergy & Asthma Network in support of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) EXHALE technical package. The goal of the EXHALE technical package is to help people – especially children – control asthma and reduce emergency room visits.

In this Episode…

2:40 – What is an Asthma Action Plan and how can it help

3:46 – Learn the signs of an asthma flare-up

4:56 – Identify and avoid asthma triggers

6:07 – A closer look at allergic asthma

6:48 – Managing quick-relief and controller medications

8:20 – Decreasing exposure to viruses and germs

9:20 – Considering flu and/or COVID-19 vaccines

Show Transcript

The following is an edited transcript of the Kids Breathe Better podcast episode 2: “Practical Tips and Strategies for Pediatric Asthma.”

Thasia: Hello, and welcome to Kids Breathe Better, a podcast series designed to give parents and caregivers helpful tips and strategies to maintain their child’s asthma symptoms. Please welcome our host, Jodie Stabinski. A pediatric nurse practitioner, she has over 35 years of experience working with kids with asthma and other pulmonary concerns at an outpatient clinic at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. She also is a pediatrics instructor for the Family Nurse Practitioner Program and educates professional groups on a national level. Today, Jodi will discuss practical tips and strategies to care for your child with asthma. This podcast episode is designed for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Thanks for joining us today. Now we’ll turn it over to Jodie.

Jodie: Hello everyone. We are going to be discussing today at this podcast practical tips and strategies for pediatric asthma. These tips and strategies help you as a parent or caretaker and help empower you to be a very important part of your child’s asthma team. Not only will you have a better understanding of how to intervene early during an exacerbation, but overall help your child have an active life and use these medications early to hopefully decrease the amount of time you spend in urgent care or emergency rooms.

So these strategies are for you to individualize for your child, make it work easier for you, have a better understanding of what you can do and be empowered as a part of this team. So we’re going to talk again about managing asthma. There’s actually some major areas that we’ll discuss today and it’s identifying and minimizing contact with asthma triggers, understanding and knowing how to administer the medications, and monitoring the asthma to recognize signs. When you know that your child is starting to have possible issues and maybe an exacerbation, you can intervene early and know what to do when asthma gets worse.

The first thing that’s extremely helpful and also helpful if you have a school-age child is to have an Asthma Action Plan. You create this with your provider. It goes over steps – it almost looks like a traffic light with green light which you do daily, yellow light when certain symptoms start to arise, and then the red light when you’re in the danger zone. These are very helpful and again printed up. You can get copies if you’d like and you can keep them in a bag with the medications so that when your child does go to different places, that can go with them. The adult that’s providing care to your child can easily see these steps. It’s also helpful to include phone numbers of yourself, your provider for your child’s asthma and sometimes if you’re going to different areas, just an idea and a phone number of the nearest medical facility if you should need it. It’s better to be prepared and never use these things. So the Asthma Action Plan is very helpful.

Now the next step is to learn the signs of a flare-up. This is individual and it can vary greatly from child to child. But you’ve seen your child progress to an exacerbation from early signs so you want to help your child, if they are of age, to understand to report ‘Hey, I’m starting to have some trouble,’ or you see your child starting to have a runny nose, congestion – sometimes that’s the earliest sign.

Wheezing can be a late sign, but you’ll see changes in your child even as early as a cough starts when they’re laying down, those types of things. You want to hone in on it and then start your plan early. Every child is different when they start to have a flare-up, but you as the expert in your child’s care will see these things and again pay attention to how they’re feeling and behaving. Sometimes it’s as simple as knowing you’re going to get into a situation and you may need to pretreat them and avoid any symptoms.

Speaking of getting into situations, identify and avoid triggers. These triggers are all a variety and are very again individualized to your child. It can be stress, it can be exercise – and this does not mean that they avoid exercise, but you sometimes can intervene. Again, prepare, pretreat possibly, if you know they’re going to be running around, having a game day, that type of thing. Air pollution, cigarette smoke – things that we can’t control your child may be triggered with these things. Also cold and dry air, the weather can trigger your child, certain fragrances or odors, some children sometimes are triggered by the chlorine smell in an indoor pool.

Just be aware of what you’re seeing in these situations and if needed, write them down so that you can bring them back to your provider. Then you’re that active parent or caretaker on your child’s asthma team to help the provider get a better idea on how to control your child’s asthma.

Again, allergens are a big part of some children’s asthma flares. They can be mold, they can be pollen, they can be animal dander and dust mites. This is not to say that your child can’t go over to a friend’s house, but have the parent of the friend understand the exposure and what to look for in case there’s some concern with your child’s asthma. These things are extremely important and can change throughout your child’s asthma. So keep up to date and update your Asthma Action Plan.

The next one is to take the medications that are prescribed for your child. Make sure that they’re doing them on a daily basis and understand what these medications do. It’s extremely important to know which one is given, when and what it does, how to give it properly with a spacer or a chamber. Again, if you have questions, I encourage you to talk to your provider or your asthma educator.

The best tool is your knowledge and education of these things for your child’s asthma. You again want to understand what quick-relief medications do as opposed to the controllers and when to give them. This is very helpful, especially when you’re in the middle of a child having a breathing issue. You want to be able to think clearly and again intervene as soon as you see some issues starting to arise. We talked a little bit more about keeping track of symptoms. Again, you’re noticing certain places your child may be having a more of a reaction when they get home or you’re seeing stressful situations. You want to maybe share those with the provider so they have a much better understanding.

One of the other things that I say, at least to the children I care for and the parents, is to try to decrease the amount of exposure to illnesses and germs. This is not to say that you’re going to put them in a plastic bubble or again start wiping down all the surfaces that they’re going to touch, but you want to be prepared, especially out in public. There’s a lot of touch points, especially if you’re at an all-day amusement park and then you sit down to have finger foods, you’re putting your hands on your food. You want to just get in the habit of hand washing or using that antimicrobial so that you cut down the exposure of illnesses for your child. This may be also wearing masks when you think you’re going to be in an environment that may have a higher incidence of illness in a more populated area.

Also, one of the key factors is children’s vaccines. This helps decrease the amount of childhood illnesses that your child will develop. Flu vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines – I’m not advocating that you have to do this, but think about them and help decrease the amount of issues that may arise. When your child does get ill or does pick up that virus or does pick up the flu, again, this does help greatly in overall control of some of those symptoms and the course of that particular illness, whether it be flu or viruses. We can’t avoid viruses, and especially we’re seeing now that used to be more so in the winter. There is not a season now for any of these viruses. It seems to be going through summer and that’s when we like to travel. Sure, we’re outside, but again, having that bag or kit with your medications, the Asthma Action Plan, antimicrobial soap, phone numbers, is extremely helpful to you when you have to be faced with having to intervene for your child’s asthma flair.

I hope that some of this information is helpful to you. Again, it’s identifying and minimizing contact with asthma triggers, understanding the medications that your child is on and when to utilize them and when to take them. Also, be wary of prescription refills. Make sure you have, especially if you’re going to be going away, your medications and they will last the duration of your travel. We’ll talk about that in more detail at one of our future podcasts on traveling with your child with asthma.

And again, back to that plan. In the beginning, you are anticipating what to do when the asthma gets worse and that’s where that Asthma Action Plan is a great help. So I hope these are things that you can take away, individualized for you and your family and your child with asthma. I thank you for the time that you have given today and I look forward to talking with you more as we have two more podcasts to talk about your child and their asthma.

I thank you for your input and I hope that you can take away a few of these strategies in order to better have your child controlled during an asthma flare. Thank you.

Thasia: Thank you for listening to Kids Breathe Better. This episode is brought to you by Allergy & Asthma Network in support of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention EXHALE technical package to control asthma and reduce emergency room visits. Our next episode will discuss how to keep your child safe when they travel or visit friends. If this episode was helpful to you, please subscribe and leave a review. For more information, visit our website at AllergyAsthmaNetwork.org.