Ah, the carefree life of a child! No worries, no stress – nothing but playing all day long. We may like to remember childhood that way, but the truth is that childhood is just as stressful for a child as adulthood is for adults. For a child with asthma, that anxiety and stress has a basis in reality – imagine never knowing when you suddenly won’t be able to breathe? Researchers state that there’s a clear link between pediatric asthma and stress – but the link may be more of a spiral, with asthma feeding stress, stress worsening asthma causing more stress and on and on.
In addition, when a child in the house has asthma, there’s more stress placed on the entire household. That stress also is added to the burden the child is bearing simply by having asthma. There are ways that you can lessen the impact of pediatric asthma and stress on your child, though you may need to push for some of them to be covered by your insurance or school department.
First and most important is complying with your asthma treatment plan. Research among families of children with asthma has shown time and again that many families and caregivers misunderstand the disease, and only treat it when symptoms appear. This not only puts undue stress on the child and the family, it puts the child’s life at risk. By complying with the treatment plan 100% – on a daily basis whether there are symptoms or not – you are preventing the symptoms from appearing. By suspending treatment when the child is not having an asthma attack, you are allowing the symptoms to reappear – and adding the stress of worrying about symptoms and panicking about acute attacks to the child’s stress level.
Make no mistake about it – no matter how well things are going, there is the nagging fear in the back of the child’s mind that it can only last so long. And the more stressed the child is the more likely he is to have an acute episode – and the asthma flare sparks still more stress.
Pediatric asthma and stress are linked for the caregivers as well. Caring for a child with asthma can be stressful for parents, and for siblings. There’s fear of symptoms, concern that an acute attack may take your child from you, worry about being able to afford the treatments and medications needed. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, many families with asthmatic children operate in crisis mode – coasting along and pretending everything is just fine until an acute asthmatic episode in the middle of the night necessitates another trip to the emergency room.
The best way to deal with pediatric asthma and stress that it causes is to get a working asthma treatment plan, says the AAAAI. A plan that includes management of asthma and environment, medication and clearly defined steps to take in case of an emergency gives children and parents confidence and comfort. The Action Plan helps the family and child feel that they are controlling the asthma rather than being controlled by it.