Asthma - Information For Parents

Having children involved in their asthma care at a young age helps to foster self -management skills. Children who are good self-managers will develop the necessary knowledge and skill to manage their asthma not only as a child, but later on in life as an adult.

Children with asthma need help from their health care provider and parents/guardians to learn how to successfully manage their asthma.

Tips for parents


What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition in the airway of the lungs (external link). Children with asthma have sensitive airways that respond to certain things in the environment (triggers) that can cause the airway to respond in several ways including:

  1. The lining inside the airway swells.
  2. Extra mucus can build up in the airway.
  3. Muscles that wrap around the outside of the airway tighten.

Common asthma triggers

  • Viral infections (colds/flu)
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Strong odours (paints, markers, perfumes, cleaning products, glue etc.)
  • Air pollution
  • Extreme weather (very hot or cold days)
  • Allergies (animals, pollen, mould, dust, dust mites)

Each child’s triggers are unique. It is helpful to be able to identify what triggers your child’s asthma to prevent symptoms.

Common asthma symptoms

  • Cough
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheeze

Asthma medications are prescribed to help your child manage their asthma. The two main types of asthma medications (external link) for children are controllers and relievers. For children using ‘puffer’ medications an aero chamber is recommended.

Inhaler technique (external link) is very important to ensure your child is getting a proper dose of medicine (external link). Watch this video (external link) to learn how to properly use a puffer.

Monitoring your child's asthma

To help your child manage their asthma it is important to understand how to achieve good asthma control (external link) and how to recognize sign of worsening asthma (external link).

An Asthma Action Plan (PDF file) is a written set of instructions from your health care provider that explains:

  • what medicines your child needs to take.
  • when to take them.
  • how to adjust them if your child’s asthma starts to get out of control.

*Be sure to ask your healthcare provider to complete an asthma action plan for your child.

Managing asthma at child care centres or school

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  1. How did I get asthma?
    Asthma and allergies often run in families and may be passed on in genes. That means you have a higher chance of having asthma and allergies if one or both of your parents has them. However, many people have asthma when nobody else in the family does.
  2. Will I ever outgrow my asthma?
    For some people, asthma goes away and never comes back. For others, asthma goes away during childhood or the teen years, only to come back later in adulthood. Unfortunately, some people will always have asthma. Keep your asthma under control and you’ll still be able to do what everyone else does, even if asthma stays with you forever.
  3. Are my asthma medicines safe for me?
    Asthma medicines are generally very safe. Your doctor will try to find the lowest amount of medicine that keeps your asthma under control. Keeping your lungs healthy and being able to exercise normally is important. Inhaled steroids are the most common medicines for treating asthma long-term. Although people have many misconceptions about inhaled steroids, these medicines have great benefits, are generally safe in prescribed doses, and tend to be the most effective medicine.
  4. If I’m feeling great do I need to keep taking my asthma medicines?
    Some asthma medicines only work if you take them everyday. These are called “controller” medicines. They keep your lungs healthy, so if you stop taking them, your asthma can slowly start getting out of control making it hard to breathe.
  5. Do I need to stay away from sports and exercise if I have asthma?
    Keep your asthma under control and you should be able to play sports and exercise just like everyone else. Doctors often recommend that people with asthma take their reliever inhaler (usually blue) before playing sports. A good warm-up before and cool-down after exercising or playing sports also helps. If you do get short of breath during exercise, stop right away and take your asthma reliever inhaler. Only start again if your breathing is back to normal. If your asthma is not under control, you should not start any exercise.

View more Frequently Asked Questions (external link)

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