It was 1967 when news of Howard Marshall’s death was first heard. Initially it was thought to be a cruel hoax, the kind of mean-spirited prank middle schoolers play.  Sadly, it was true, confirmed the next day by his principal over the public address system.

Howard was a well-spoken boy from a prominent Baltimore family. Although he didn’t play sports, he good naturedly assisted his classmates, keeping track of uniforms and equipment. Known for his intelligence and quick wit, he could make kids laugh and not get caught for bringing a bit of levity to Sunday School.  

For many of his Garrison, Lemmel and Pimlico junior high school friends, it was the first time they had lost a peer. Hardly anyone knew Howard had asthma. It was said at his memorial service that he disliked using his inhaler, the way some kids don’t want to be seen wearing glasses.  

To this day, Howard’s death still haunts those who knew him. In his close-knit community the seriousness of asthma became clearly understood. However, today the prognosis for asthma does not have to be bleak. With the right information and proactive measures, parents can effectively manage this chronic condition, helping their child lead a long and healthy life. 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines asthma as “a chronic respiratory condition that causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways, making it difficult for your child to breathe. Common triggers include allergens (such as dust mites, pollen, and pet dander), respiratory infections, cold air, exercise, and certain medications.”

“Recognizing the signs and symptoms is crucial for early intervention. Typical asthma symptoms include wheezing, coughing (especially at night or during physical activity), shortness of breath, and chest tightness,” says the CDC. 

Joelle Pace, whose asthmatic son Chase recently turned four, says there are exceptions to the direct connection between physical activity and asthma attacks. “People think asthma is always triggered by the child’s behavior. Sometimes an asthma flare up is caused by an activity. But other times I have found Chase’s asthma attacks are due to seasonal changes and allergies.”  

Collaborating with healthcare professionals is vital to manage a child’s asthma effectively. The CDC recommends consulting a pediatrician or an allergist who specializes in asthma to establish an asthma action plan. The plan should outline the steps to be taken for prevention, daily management, and emergency situations. 

It is essential that parents fully understand the plan and follow it meticulously. Regular check-ups and open communication with a child’s healthcare team will help monitor their progress and make necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.

Identifying and minimizing exposure to triggers plays another crucial role in managing asthma. Chase’s mom takes note of any factors that worsen her son’s symptoms and tries to eliminate or reduce his exposure to them. 

According to the CDC, common triggers include tobacco smoke, strong odors, dust, mold, and pollen, saying the house should be kept clean, dust-free and well-ventilated. It also recommends that parents invest in allergen-proof mattress and pillow covers, and regularly wash bedding in hot water to eliminate dust mites. 

Asthma treatment may include medication to control symptoms and prevent flare-ups. As with all pharmaceutical intervention, parents should make sure they understand the purpose, correct usage and potential side effects of each prescribed medication. 

It is important to follow the prescribed dosage and schedule strictly, even if the child’s symptoms improve. Educate your child on how to use their inhaler properly and encourage them to carry it at all times. Regularly check the expiration dates of medications and replenish supplies as needed.

Encouraging a healthy lifestyle can greatly benefit children with asthma. Joelle plans activities that include regular exercise to strengthen Chase’s lungs and improve his overall respiratory health. She is also careful to select and prepare a nutritious diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains designed to support his immune system and reduce the risk of respiratory infections.

Asthma can be emotionally challenging for children. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) advises parents to offer their child emotional support and help them understand their condition without instilling fear. 

Despite taking preventative measures, asthma attacks can still occur. It is crucial to be prepared for emergencies. Joelle keeps important contacts readily available, including Chase’s healthcare provider’s name and number. 

Managing asthma in children requires a comprehensive approach involving medical management, trigger identification, and a supportive environment. By understanding asthma, working closely with healthcare professionals, and implementing preventive measures, all parents can help their child live a long and fulfilling life. 

Jayne Hopson
Click Here to See More posts by this Author