Childhood asthma is more common than you might think. In fact, it is the most common chronic disorder in children, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Asthma is a long-term respiratory condition that causes swelling within the airways, making it different for your little one to breathe. How do you know if your child might have asthma? The telltale signs include:
- Trouble or difficulty breathing
- Wheezing or whistling when breathing in
- Tightness in the chest
- Coughing that often gets worse at night
- Fatigue, especially with exercise or play
If your child is experiencing or complaining about any of these symptoms it’s important that you schedule an appointment with a pediatrician as soon as possible. It’s important to write down the exact symptoms your little one has been experiencing, particularly because their symptoms may not be present during their evaluation. If you have a family history of asthma, this is something that your child’s pediatrician will want to know.
During the evaluation your doctor will also perform a physical exam, taking time to listen to both the heart and the lungs for signs of asthma. Sometimes a test known as spirometry will be used to test the lung function (this is most common in children over the age of 6 years old). This test is used to measure how much air is in the lungs and how quickly your child can exhale. Other tests may also be performed to check for other health issues that could be exacerbating your child’s asthma symptoms such as a sinus infection.
Asthma is serious and requires medication to keep this problem under control. While there is no cure for asthma, your pediatrician’s goal for asthma treatment is to prevent the severity and frequency of asthma attacks. We want to prevent your little one from having to rush to the hospital for a severe attack. Luckily, there are medications that your children’s doctor can prescribe to lessen asthma symptoms.
The type of asthma medication your child receives will depend on several factors including age. Infants and toddlers may require inhaled steroids to control asthma symptoms. The dosage will also change depending on your child’s age. Along with long-term medications that will be taken every day to help control symptoms and keep inflammation down there are fasting-acting medications that your child will also be prescribed (e.g. albuterol), which is only used when your little one feels an attack coming on. Before any medication is given to your child, your pediatrician will talk to both you and your little one about how to use asthma medication properly.
The number one goal of parents is to make sure their little ones are healthy and have the best quality of life possible. Of course, this means having a pediatrician in which you can always turn, whether for preventive care or treatment when health problems arise. You want a pediatrician you can trust to always provide quality and individualized care for your little one time and time again.
Of course, why treat a health issue that could easily have been prevented in the first place, right? The best way to detect problems early on and to also protect your child from a variety of potentially serious health issues is by bringing them in to visit their pediatrician regularly. These checkups will occur frequently, particularly for the first few years of your little one’s life. This is because your child is reaching a lot of developmental milestones during these first few years and it’s important that you have a children’s doctor that can make sure that they are reaching these milestones.
Plus, these checkups are also important for parents, too. After all, we know that parents have a lot of questions regarding everything from their child’s nutrition to activity levels to vaccinations. While these checkups are most certainly about making sure your child is leading a healthy life it’s also important that you have all of your questions and concerns answered to promote that healthy lifestyle in your child. Make sure to write down any questions ahead of time so that you will have all of your questions addressed during your child’s next visit.
These checkups are crucial for preventing a variety of health problems and also making sure your little one gets the care and treatment they need should an issue arise. During these wellness checkups your pediatrician will monitor your child’s:
- Height and weight
- Heart rate and blood pressure
- Vision and hearing
- Reflexes and musculoskeletal system
- Lungs and heart
Your child will also have to get a series of immunizations throughout their childhood to protect against serious and potentially life-threatening health problems. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has created a comprehensive vaccination schedule to make sure your child is getting all the immunizations they need.
Once your child is born it’s important that you bring them in regularly to see their doctor for checkups. After all, preventive medical care is the best way to stave off certain illnesses and injuries. Plus, these checkups also ensure that if there is a health problem present that it’s detected right away when it’s much easier to treat.
What a sad and difficult – yet necessary – conversation we must have with kids.
Why do we need to have this discussion? Will bringing the topic of suicide to the table give kids an idea; a suggestion of a way out of difficult times? I get it; it can feel a bit risky to talk to kids about suicide. However, I believe it’s necessary; not easy, but necessary.
When you have this conversation, keep in mind your kids' personalities, temperaments, sensitivities, etc. Heart-to-heart conversations help your kids believe they can talk to you about difficult and sad things, rather than hiding from them. Talking about suicide now, gives your kids permission to bring it up in the future.
Here are some suggestions – for kids 12 and up:
- “I want to have a conversation with you that we’ve not had before. I want to talk about suicide.” Or, if this is the case, “I want to have another conversation with you about suicide.”
- Don’t let your fears and confusion stop you from talking about suicide. Bringing up sensitive and tough topics – depression, sadness – anxiety – scary thoughts - with kids, opens up another important discussion; coping skills and techniques to use when things in life are hard.
- You may want to start the conversation by talking about where thoughts and feelings come from; the brain and the mind. And, you can add, “the amazing thing about our minds, is that we can change the way we think; and when we change the way we think, it changes our actions and behaviors.”
- Explain, “Suicide is when a person is so depressed or so deeply sad and feeling so bad inside, that the person chooses to do something that would make their body stop working and die.”
- “We all can feel super disappointed, sad at times and even depressed. Sometimes these thoughts and feelings make people feel too ashamed to tell others.”
- “Sometimes, people are embarrassed to get help. They don’t want other people to know how sad they are.” “They may not know how to stop hurting inside their heads.” “They may not know it’s okay to get help when they are down, sad or depressed.”
- “I want you to have the courage to ask for help when you need it.” “And, I understand it takes bravery to talk about problems and ask for help.” “You don’t have to be silent about painful thoughts. I am here to help you.”
- You can even ask, “What do you know about suicide? Have your friends talked about suicide? Have you ever thought about it?”
- And, you may want to convey (in your own words) something like, “Dying by suicide is not an option. Depression or hopelessness or sadness can be helped.” “Everybody, even when they don’t admit it, feels sad at times.”
- Put the suicide prevention hotline number 800-273-8255 in your child’s phone contacts. Explain why. “You can call them 24 hours a day. They are always open and ready to help people who are depressed and sad.” “You can call them if you think your friend is suicidal or has talked about suicide.” Let your kids know there is a crisis text line that provides 24 hour help. Text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the US, anytime to reach a crisis counselor.
- And, in general, listen more to your kids. Be open to their questions. Connect in more positive ways.
Don’t avoid challenging conversations. Be the person your kids can talk to.
Robin Goldstein, PHD
The exams of your children are to start soon. I know you are all really anxious for your child to do well.
But, please do remember, amongst the students who will be sitting for the exams there is an artist, who doesn't need to understanf Math... There is an entrepreneur, who doesn't care about History or English literature... There is a musician, whose Chemistry marks won't matter... There's an athlete... whose physical fitness is more important than Physics... If your child does get top marks, that's great! But if he or she doesn't... please don't take away their self-confidence and dignity from them. Tell them it's OK, it's just an exam ! They are cut our for much bigger things in life. Tell them, no mattter what they score... you love them and will not judge them.
Please do this, and when you do... watch your children conquer the world. One exam or a low mark won't take away... their dreams and talent. And please, do not think that doctors and engineers... are the only happy people in the world.
With warm Regards
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