Dealing with asthma can be difficult for anybody, and for teenagers it may be accompanied by embarrassment and confusion.
Here are some tips for helping your teenager manage their asthma.
- Encourage your teenager to tell their family and friends about their asthma, and to let them know how to deal with an emergency.
- Remind your teenager that having asthma doesn’t make them ‘different’ from everyone else, and encourage them to participate in sport and social events.
- Teenagers with asthma should avoid smoking and smoky areas. Their doctor should check with them about whether they have experimented with smoking and offer help to quit if that is the case.
- Encourage your teenager to work with their doctor to formulate a written asthma action plan. This plan will help them to manage their asthma effectively and ensure they are getting the appropriate type and amount of medicine. Emphasise that honesty with their doctor will help their asthma management, and allow your teenager to see their doctor alone for at least part of the visit to discuss sensitive issues.
- Your doctor will want to review your teenager’s asthma action plan periodically — encourage your teenager to attend for these reviews.
- Include your teenager in discussions about the management and monitoring of their asthma: excluding them may lead to confusion and resentment surrounding their condition.
- Remember that teenagers tend to view constant reminders to take medicines as nagging — try to strike a balance between monitoring your teenager’s asthma and encouraging them to look after themselves.
- Make sure your teenager knows to take their reliever medicine with them at all times.
- Some teenagers don’t take their preventer medicine as often as prescribed, either intentionally or unintentionally. This can lead to poor asthma control, so remind them that preventers (if prescribed by their doctor) are important. Talk to your doctor together if you can’t resolve the problem.
- If you are having problems trying to persuade your teenager to take their medicine, you could try to encourage them to use their peak flow meter reading as the arbiter of whether they need to adjust their medicine. This way you won’t seem like you are being overbearing. Your teenager’s asthma action plan should have details of the peak flow reading that your teenager should be aiming for.
- Encourage your teenager to lead an active lifestyle, combined with a healthy and nutritious diet to help control their asthma.
- Teenagers should be reminded that dancing is exercise — remind them to use their reliever medicine before they hit the dance floor, if their doctor recommends it.
- See if your local community health centre or youth health service runs a support group for young people with asthma — your teenager may benefit from talking to other people with asthma.
- Find out whether asthma programmes designed for teenagers, which are run in schools, are available in your area. Self-management programmes, including peer-led programmes, have been shown to improve teenagers’ knowledge of asthma and how to manage it.
- Gradually encourage your teenager to take over control of their asthma management, as a positive step towards managing it independently in adulthood.