Dr. Stephen Julius, a pediatric pulmonologist at Mission Children’s Hospital, offers expert advice on managing your child’s asthma during the holiday season, as seen in WNC Parent.
The holidays are a time to rejoice with friends and family. Your celebration should not include sleepless nights caring for your child’s asthma or trips to the emergency room for an hour of continuous albuterol.
Here are 10 suggestions to help you provide a safe and healthy holiday season for your child with asthma.
- Medication holidays: Holidays provide time away from work and school but should not include medication holidays. Those children who meet criteria for daily asthma controller therapy should continue their daily therapy despite the change in routine.
- “An ounce of prevention weighs more than a pound of cure.” Make sure you have your child’s updated asthma action plan as well as all daily and as-needed medications. Make sure they are not expired or soon-to-be expired.
- Cold air is a well-known asthma trigger. Children with asthma should make an extra effort to warm up prior to outdoor winter activities and consider pretreatment with a bronchodilator. Some advocate for wrapping a scarf over an older child’s face when exposed to very cold air.
- Indoor allergens. With dropping outdoor temps we tend to spend more time indoors. Many children with asthma are sensitive to indoor allergens such as dust mites, molds and pet dander. Parents should practice allergen avoidance measures as directed by their child’s asthma provider and, if not done so recently, change the air filters in the home. Don’t forget that all your hard work in the home will not be effective when your child spends vacation time in other homes that have not made the same efforts to minimize exposures to indoor asthma triggers.
- Holiday hours. Many providers have modified holiday hours, so make sure you plan visits accordingly (when possible) when your child’s asthma symptoms develop/escalate and a medical visit is required.
- Indoor smoke. Wood burning fireplaces smell great, but anyone with asthma should avoid smoke in any form. Instead, enjoy the aroma of hot cider or Mom’s cooking.
- Flu shots. Every child with very rare exceptions should receive a vaccination to influenza. This is particularly important for children with lung disease and asthma. All close contacts should also receive a flu shot.
- Smoking. Cold air may chase people indoors or in their cars, but never allow smoking indoors or in cars.
- Hand washing: Routine hand washing is perhaps the most effective way to minimize transmission of infectious pathogens. This is particularly important when outside the home and during holiday travel.
- Safety first. Never delay treatment in an effort to preserve the holiday. Untreated asthma exacerbations can have serious negative consequences.
Dr. Steven Julius is a pediatric pulmonologist at Mission Children’s Hospital. For more information, visit missionchildrens.org.