If a child has asthma, as a parent you would of course like to spare them as much as you can. But it is important to know the disease exactly. Together with DAK-Gesundheit, we checked 5 common asthma myths for their truthfulness.
1. “My child has no typical symptoms – so the diagnosis of asthma must be wrong.”
Not right! There are a few typical symptoms that can indicate asthma: a wheezing sound, a fit, dry cough and shortness of breath. But: Children with asthma can show this not only when they get out of breath due to exertion, but also, for example, at night when they sleep, while laughing or crying, while eating and drinking.
It may also be that the obvious symptoms are completely absent and the narrowing of the airways, which is typical of asthma, is mainly noticeable as a tightness in the chest. Smaller children in particular often speak of abdominal pain or automatically pull in their stomach when they breathe in order to support the respiratory muscles. It is not uncommon for you as a parent to experience breathing problems only when your child gets tired more quickly and has less desire for games and sports. Some children also eat and drink less when they have asthma. In short: a completely “typical” asthma, which even laypeople can recognize at first glance, is the exception rather than the rule, especially with children.
Conversely, typical asthma symptoms in children can also appear as side effects of a cold. If they go away quickly after the infection, there is no asthma.
2. “It’s just a psychological problem.”
The persistent belief persists that asthma is caused by psychological stress and is caused by shortness of breath and mainly takes place in the head – according to the motto: Take a deep breath, calm down and everything is fine. But it is not that easy. The cause of asthma is hypersensitivity of the mucous membranes in the bronchi. In the event of a seizure, these swell and the breathing muscles also cramp. This narrows the airways and causes shortness of breath.
The most common form in children (50 to 70 percent of cases) is allergic asthma. For example, the bronchial tubes are overly sensitive to house dust, pollen, fungal spores, animal hair or certain foods. If there is no allergy, other irritations can trigger an attack: for example cold air, air pollutants such as smoke or exhaust fumes, or a cold and physical exertion that makes you breathless.
Psychological stress can increase the likelihood of a seizure – but the physical symptoms are always real and by no means just imagined. In the event of acute shortness of breath, however, it is still important for you to remain calm and to take away your child’s fear: If they panic, it becomes even more difficult to breathe.
3. “If you have asthma, you should just not exert yourself.”
Keeping a child diagnosed with asthma away from exercise and physical exertion does more harm than good in the long run. Experts suspect that just under a third of children and adolescents suffer from exertion asthma. And even with these, regular exercise improves the symptoms! Because the better the endurance, the better the lung function – and the fewer the seizures. In any case, you should discuss with the doctor which medications can make sport and exercise easier for your child: Asthma attacks during physical activity should be prevented so that your child does not lose friends.
Basically: Avoid sports and sports facilities where your child can come into contact with individual asthma triggers (e.g. dust, pollen, dry or cold air) and make sure that your child has their emergency spray to hand at all times. Inform the sports teacher or trainer about the disease and make sure that you warm up sufficiently before exercising (if necessary with special exercises for asthmatics). Encourage your child to be open about their illness and talk about it with classmates, teachers and training partners. It must be clear to your child that there is no shame in taking a little break to take a deep breath while doing school sports or playing during the break. Under no circumstances should the illness deter him from playing along!In the exercise module, the fit4future initiative gives valuable tips for sporting games that everyone can participate in.
Sports in which the training takes place at intervals and breaks are possible at any time are well suited. With yoga, for example, your child also specifically trains deep, calm breathing. This helps him stay calm during an asthma attack. Endurance sports such as swimming, jogging and cycling train endurance and breathing muscles and ensure that your child does not run out of breath so quickly – at the same time, they can determine their own pace. (Team) sports such as soccer or handball are less suitable, as many children go beyond their limits. Even sports, in If the child has been sensitized enough to listen to his body, these sports are no problem either.
4. “Asthma medication is addictive.”
Many parents distrust the drugs and therefore only want to use them in an emergency. When treating asthma, however, it is important to follow the doctor’s instructions exactly. Because only with the right drug control can a child get the disease under control in the long term. When it comes to drugs, a distinction is made between so-called controller and reliever drugs. The former must be taken daily to prevent airway swelling, the latter are only used in acute cases to alleviate the symptoms. Both do not lead to dependency, but should only be used as intended so that they also work. Make sure that both you and your child and their caregivers know when which medication should or may be taken. And do not stop taking any medication without consulting your doctor, even if you have not had any symptoms for a long time. This can trigger an asthma attack.
5. “With asthma, my child will never be able to lead a normal life.”
That’s not true! The earlier asthma was recognized and treated in childhood and adolescence, the higher the likelihood that the symptoms will no longer occur in adulthood. And even if the disease accompanies your child for a lifetime: Nowadays, medical care is so individual and sophisticated that most patients are hardly restricted in everyday life. Good to know: DAK-Gesundheit has developed a tailor-made program for affected children and their parents , with the help of which you can treat the disease in the best possible way and get it under control over the long term.