Asthma occurs when a child suffers symptoms such as recurrent attacks of shortness of breath, wheezing, tightness of the chest and coughing. These symptoms are caused by the narrowing of the air passages, resulting in reduction of air flow in and out of the lungs. The causes of asthma are still unknown although a family history of asthma, environmental factors and allergies could play a part in triggering asthma.
Asthma does not go away however, daily management of your child’s asthma, from his dietary needs to breathing exercises, can help both you and him lead a healthy, happy and active life. In order to prevent asthma aggravation, get your child to practise a healthy diet, good stress management, breathing exercises, and avoiding cigarette smoke or other air pollutants.
Does food make a difference?
While eating a healthy diet may reduce your child’s asthma symptoms, there is no special asthma diet to cure this breathing disorder. Allergic reactions to certain foods may cause asthma symptoms. Some of the common food allergies that can trigger asthma symptoms are peanuts, eggs, soy, wheat, cow’s milk, and shellfish. However these reactions are very individual-based and are not generalized for all asthmatics. Drinks containing caffeine such as coffee, tea and soda are among the few beverages that can dilate your child’s air passage and make it easier for him to breathe. However, coffee and caffeine-containing products are not encouraged to be taken by children due to other unwanted side effects.
A good diet plan is essential for asthma management as certain foods could exacerbate symptoms. Studies have also suggested that because society eats less fruits and vegetables and more processed foods, the risk of asthma has increased. Children lacking in vitamin C, vitamin D and E, beta-carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids or malnourished children are more likely to have poor lung function. However, this does not mean that a deficiency of these nutrients can actually cause your child to have asthma. The one thing for sure is that good nutrition is good for everyone, especially those with chronic disorders.
Is it safe for him to exercise?
Exercise and other physical sports and activities are all part and parcel of maintaining a normal and healthy lifestyle. Having asthma does not mean that your child can never do any physical activity without aggravating his asthma symptoms. In fact, regular exercise should be a part of any asthma management plan. Having stated this however, the physical exertion from exercising or playing sports can trigger exercise-induced asthma. In any event, talk to your child’s doctor to find out how much exercise he should be getting.
The types of exercise that can be done by asthmatic children include sporting activities such as swimming, gymnastics, soccer, badminton, baseball, and volleyball. Activities such as running, basketball, and hockey are less well-tolerated as these involve long periods of exertion. Remind your child that asthma should never deter him from exercising.
Breathing exercises may help
Practising a healthy and active lifestyle with asthma involves practising breathing exercises which could limit the use of rescue inhalers. A suggested method for your child to breathe right is by breathing in deeply and exhaling, releasing muscle tension and clearing his head off negative thoughts. Other breathing techniques can include drawing shallow nasal breaths, and exercises involving posture, relaxation, and upper-body movements, such as raising the arms and shoulder rolls. When your child is feeling stressed, instruct him to repeat to himself the words ‘Relax, and Let Go’ as this could trigger physical relaxation and positive thoughts. The power of the mind can be a powerful ally.
Managing his stress
Asthma causes stress when your child feels out of breath, and this makes it harder to control his asthma symptoms. Asthmatic children often become wheezy at birthday parties due to the excitement and exertion from running around and playing games with other children. Teach your asthmatic child to plan his daily schedule to allow enough time to accomplish what needs to be done without feeling pressured. This could prevent shortness of breath and avoid him to panic. Your asthmatic child should be able to identify his stressors and diligently avoid them. Get your child to practise effective time-management, for example, taking turns to do the chores round the house or taking time out from studies to play or mingle around.
Stay away from cigarette smoke
You have probably heard this time and time again; smoking is bad for health, especially for children. Parents who smoke in front of their asthmatic child are exposing him to long-term breathing problems or worsening his existing breathing problems. The passive smoke from cigarettes that these children inhale can adversely affect their lung function, causing breathing difficulties. In some cases, this could lead to fatalities when it triggers a severe asthma attack. As parents, we want the best for our children; therefore, avoid exposing your child to cigarette smoke or other dangerous air pollutants in order to protect his little lungs.
Asthma cannot be cured, but by taking charge of his lifestyle, diet and well-being, he can control his symptoms.