Useful tips to manage asthma among school-going children

Monday May 13 2019


By Gean Cabral

It was way back in the late 1990’s when this little girl of two years suffered with recurrent, productive and wheezy coughs accompanied with fevers every single month. Along with all the cough and cold medications, she was also on antibiotics. She would constantly miss school (play school) for being so sick.

It was only until her mother had the opportunity a year later to have her child properly diagnosed, did she realise that she was actually suffering from asthma. The girl suffered so severely, gasping for breath, that she was constantly rushed to the hospital for nebulisation [a drug delivery device used to administer medication in the form of a mist inhaled into the lungs].

The mother having become sick with worry with the notion that this disease is life threatening, drove her to learn how to beat the asthma symptoms by not only constantly watching her child and realising what is aggravating her attacks but also by gaining knowledge about its control and management.

The child would wake up in the middle of the night coughing up sputum and vomiting. This, was due to the allergic reaction to dust mites (invisible to the naked eye), and although the bed room had no dust the allergen was present. To combat this, the whole room with furniture was cleaned with detol diluted in water. That did the trick said the mother; no more night duties!

Environmental triggers were avoided, and a watch out for what the child ate was kept in check, peanuts, especially were detrimental to the child’s health, causing raspy wheezing and coughing, gasping, and breathlessness.

At the same time the child benefited from vitamin C rich soups and foods, and teas made with honey and sometimes with turmeric and a spot of ginger.

The mother having stumbled across a good paediatrician learnt about the different inhalers, and when to take them.

With all the care, it only took the child another couple of years before she did not ever require to use the nebulizer, and only very seldom uses her inhaler. The child was trained on how to cope with her asthma, to know of her allergens, weather changes that can trigger an attack, and to know her warning signs so she can take her appropriate medication in a timely manner.

So, moms, dads, guardians, teachers, children with asthma having proper medical diagnosis and management can greatly reduce the number of attacks and enjoy life to the fullest! Asthma is not contagious, and it is not a disease to be afraid of, or to run away from. Although asthma cannot be cured, it can be managed and controlled.

Asthma is chronic disease of the lungs caused by swelling and irritation in the lining of the airways. Tightness of the airway muscles along with excess mucus makes breathing difficult.

Asthma is a leading cause of school absenteeism, but by encouraging guardians and school personnel to recognise asthma as a chronic disease requiring ongoing care and management, school attendance can be improved and ultimately asthma will be controlled.

When children’s asthma is managed effectively, they will have minimal or no asthma symptoms and so they can safely participate in all their hobbies and school activities.

Effective management of asthma also prevents symptoms of acute episodes and minimises the amount of medications, and reduces long term lung damage.

A person with asthma may need two types of medications, one a preventer and the other as a bronchodilator.

Asthma treatment does not just end in the hospital, but it is an ongoing process of managing the asthma at home too, to minimise your attacks, know of your ‘warning signs’, avoid environmental triggers and allergens, and know of your action / prevention plan.

As the saying goes – ‘that which cannot be measured, cannot be changed’, you will only have difficulty getting control of your asthma, if you do not monitor your asthma symptoms well.

The author writes from an NGO Sanitas Medical Foundation currently raising asthma awareness.