Asthma (teenagers) –

What is asthma?

Most people associate asthma with sudden bouts of coughing and wheezing, but the condition is actually present 24 hours a day. If your teen has asthma, the tubes that carry air to their lungs are inflamed and may be swollen and clogged with mucus. This condition may not interfere with his breathing, but it does set the stage for asthma attacks. Her inflamed airways are extremely sensitive, and something as harmless as dust, cold air, or exercise can cause the muscles lining the airways to suddenly contract, leaving little room for air to pass. .

How do I know if my teenager has asthma?

Asthma symptoms can mimic those of pneumonia, bronchitis, allergies, or even a cold, so it’s not always clear cut. Wheezing and coughing (especially at night) are the most common symptoms of an asthma attack, but other signs – chest tightness or shortness of breath – are also signs of asthma.

If your teen’s symptoms keep him up at night or interfere with his normal activities, he may have asthma. You should have a doctor examine your child to determine whether or not they have it and, if so, how badly the disease is affecting their lungs. Remember that many teenagers with asthma also suffer from allergies. If your teen has hay fever or other allergic reactions, take any signs of asthma seriously. Also, since colds and other respiratory infections often lead to attacks, you should suspect asthma if your teen continues to cough long after the illness has subsided.

What can I do to prevent attacks?

Try to protect your teen from the allergies and irritants that often trigger seizures. No family member should ever smoke in the house and urge your teen to never smoke. she should also avoid breathing second-hand smoke. Vacuum your floors regularly, clean her bedroom of major dust traps such as potted plants, rugs and carpets, and get bedding made from non-allergenic materials. If she is allergic to your pets, ask your allergist for advice. During this time, keep them outside or at least out of his room. (Washing your pet regularly is also effective.) If he only has asthma attacks in the spring and fall, try to limit his exposure to pollen – the likely culprit of seasonal allergies – by keeping the windows closed and installing filters in your air conditioner. When he goes outside in cold weather, remind him to breathe through his nose and offer to cover his mouth with a scarf.

Doctors have long believed that strong emotions can trigger an asthma attack, and a study from the University at Buffalo in New York supports this theory. Research has found that young people have nearly twice the incidence of depression compared to their non-asthmatic peers and that depression can increase their asthma symptoms. Additionally, another study found that children facing threats such as street violence were twice as likely to have asthma symptoms as other children. For these reasons, some psychologists recommend suggesting that your child go for a counseling appointment if he seems depressed or under a lot of stress.

Can my teen still exercise and play sports?

Absolutely. Many Olympic athletes and top professionals suffer from asthma, and there’s no reason why your teen shouldn’t play their favorite sports. If she is prone to seizures during exercise, she may need to use her inhaler just before working out. Swimming is a great form of exercise for anyone with asthma because the warm, moist air around a heated pool makes it easier to breathe. Sports that require constant movement, such as soccer, can be especially difficult, but your teen can almost certainly find a way to stay in the game. She should always have her inhaler handy, in case she needs it.

How is asthma treated?

Doctors use two types of drugs: one that reduces inflammation (a “controller”) and one that opens the airways (a “reliever”).

Corticosteroids and similar medications — which are either inhaled, injected, or taken as pills — can lessen your teen’s inflamed airways and make them less likely to have seizures. Bronchodilators, which are spray medications usually taken using an inhaler, can make breathing easier by relaxing the muscles that are constricting the airways during an asthma attack. If your child is still having trouble breathing after using the inhaler more than twice, call 911 or take them to the emergency room immediately.

An asthma diary and a peak flow meter — an instrument that measures the quality of your child’s breathing — can also be important parts of the treatment plan. By regularly using the peak flow meter to measure the strength of their breathing and tracking the number and severity of their attacks in a diary, your teen can give their doctor information to gauge the effectiveness of treatments. Recording what she was doing or feeling just before an asthma attack also helps her identify triggers to avoid. Based on this knowledge, the doctor might change your teen’s medications to give her better control over the disease.

How can I encourage my teen to take their medication?

Even if your teen has had asthma since elementary school, they may suddenly find it difficult to stick to their medication. Indeed, one study found that even though children and adolescents underused long-term controller medications across all domains, adolescents were 20% more likely to show signs of inadequate asthma control than children. younger. Fearing being teased or ridiculed, many teens try to keep their condition a secret, which often means going without their inhalers or pills.

When left untreated in this way, the disease can get worse, leading to permanent lung damage or even a life-threatening stroke. Tell your teen that medication can help him lead a normal life filled with sports and socializing, if he doesn’t try to keep his asthma to himself. Instead, she should tell all of her friends and teachers about the disease so that they are supportive and less likely to panic during an attack.

The good news is that by taking an active role in asthma management, your teen can lead a full life.

Other Resources

The American Lung Association, (800) 586-4812 or, has more tips to help you and your teen cope.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, (800) 727-8462, offers referrals to books, pamphlets, videos, and local support groups.


Science News, stress and depression make childhood asthma worse, researchers show.…

Miller BD, Wood BL. Influence of specific emotional states on autonomic reactivity and lung function in children with asthma. : J Am Acad Child Adolescent Psychiatry; 36(5):669-77.

Lozano P et al. Asthma medication use and disease burden in children in a primary care population. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. 157(1):81-8.

Wood BL, Lim J, Miller BD et al. Family and emotional climate, depression, emotional onset of asthma, and disease severity in pediatric asthma: review of pathways. Journal of Pediatric Psychology;32(5):542-51.….

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