It’s no fun being diagnosed with asthma, especially if you are a child. 10 year old Arun was miserable when the doctor told his mother that the breathlessness he experienced at times was due to asthma, since this meant his activities were restricted by his mother, Shaila. Being like other over-protective mothers, Shaila stopped Arun from going to the park in the evenings to play, insisted he avoid football at school, and nagged him to carry his inhaler.
“I felt sad a lot of the time–it was like living in a bubble and always expecting the worst to happen,” he says. When Shaila realized that curbing her son’s activities was not a good long-term option, she decided to take a second opinion. “Before being diagnosed my son used to be so active. He would love to play outside for hours. Stopping him altered his personality- He would get irritated and stops concentrating on school work too,” she says. A consultation with Dr Neeraj Gupta, Consultant Pulmonology, Paras Hospitals, Gurgaon, helped her realize that she needed to change her way of management. There was no point holding her son back. “The doctor told me that it was okay for Arun to exercise, just as long as he was taking the right medication to keep asthma in check,” she says.
Dr Neeraj Gupta adds, “Asthma is a major issue in our country, especially in the urban areas. Children these days develop it often.” The key to handling asthma is to have a good management plan. “Early diagnosis, continuous medication, inhaler use and taking other precautionary measures is the key to survival,” he says. It’s essential to know about the attack triggers, too. For some it could be dust mites, pollens for others its air pollution or tobacco smoke. An asthmatic has to take precautionary measures to avoid these triggers. Dr. Gupta enabled Shaila to understand that asthma can cripple the activities of a child and mothers often tend to be over protective. But they need to understand that their child has to develop normally. “An inhaler must be perceived as a good friend by a child, so that he carries it with him without being reminded. Arun should feel that medication is a part of his daily routine, like eating food or going to school and should always value its importance,” he says.
According to Dr Manish Mannan, HOD Pediatrics, Paras Hospitals, Gurgaon, “Asthma is a common chronic ailment in children today, sometimes mistaken for a chronic cough and cold. The right diagnosis and timely treatment is essential.” He cautions parents to ensure that children maintain their medical prescription. “70% of asthmatic children stop taking their medication and inhalers. The result is that they return with inflamed responses and severe conditions. They have to understand that you cannot cure asthma, you can only control and manage it.”
Today Arun is a different person. The doctors at Paras Hospitals have helped him come to terms with his condition and convinced him that he has the capacity to manage it effectively. Arun diligently carries his inhaler with him and his mother ensures that he takes his medication. “I feel safe with my inhaler. My skating coach always asks me if I have it in my pocket. I never forget to carry it, after all it’s my ticket to enjoy sports and have fun with my friends.” Shaila smiles with relief as he skates past her.
Consult a pulmonologist if you or your child has the following symptoms
- Coughing spells – at night, while playing or sleeping
- A chronic cough- continuous coughing and wheezing
- Rapid breathing
- Less energy while doing any activity
- Chest hurting or tightness
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling that the neck muscles are tightening