Having to deal with an asthma diagnosis is never easy and can have some important repercussions on the life of a child. It can also have an effect on the whole family dynamic, and some lifestyle changes will have to be considered in order to accommodate the situation. However, recent advances in treatment mean the disorder is now more manageable. Making adjustments doesn’t have to mean turning your whole family life upside down. But it’s still important to understand the challenges lying ahead, so you can be prepared to make the proper adjustments. Let’s take a closer look at the effect asthma can have on kids and their families, and how families can cope.
Parents Often have Mixed Emotions
One of the most difficult things with an asthma diagnosis is that the parent will often have mixed emotions regarding the issue. While on the one hand, they might be relieved that they now have a clear diagnosis, they might sometimes be stressed by the addition of a treatment regime to their daily routine. They might also be conflicted between trying to make the child feel as normal and part of the family as possible, whilst considering the child’s condition when planning activities.
In other cases, parents can feel overwhelmed with all the new obligations, like remembering to administer medicine every day and making sure that every caregiver or person who is in contact with the child knows the proper procedures in case they begin to exhibit symptoms.
Parents Have to Deal with Exhaustion
The unpredictability of the condition is also an issue for many families. There are times when the child will need immediate assistance and might even have to stay at hospital overnight. This is an additional challenge for parents, particularly those in a precarious family situation. To compound the matter, they will then have to deal with the guilt that comes as a result of any frustration they may feel.
Asthma Hits Single Parent Families Harder
These issues are especially challenging for single-parent families. In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of Asthma by Dr Terri Moncrief M.D. showed that children living in single-parent households were much more likely to visit the ER than those who had both parents at home. However, marital status was not the main defining factor. Income seemed to also have a significant impact on the number of visits.
Low-Income Families are Hit the Worst
Not only do low-income families seem to have to deal with more frequent visits, but they also tend to live in areas that can exacerbate the symptoms of asthma. As a matter of fact, one study by the University of California stated that out of all 600,000 Californians who experienced symptoms of uncontrollable asthma, more than a third earned 200 percent less than the Federal Poverty Standard.
The research also found that their environment was more likely to trigger symptoms. For instance, the study found a direct link between lower income and environmental stressors such as second-hand smoke.
However, the situation is even worse when low-income families also happen to be single-parent ones. In the Moncrief study, several factors were mentioned as to why children of single-parent homes tend to experience symptoms more severely and frequently. One of the reasons was a lack of supervision, not borne out of neglect, but rather because of the parent’s obligations.
As mentioned, a large proportion of single-parent households in the study had an income of under $15,000, 46 percent to be exact, and many single parents have to resort to working multiple jobs to make ends meet. Asthma medication needs to be taken every day on a set schedule for it to be effective, and not having the option of being present to administer your child’s medication can be challenging.
The Type of Asthma Also a Factor
Furthermore, certain types of asthma require more attention and have much more severe symptoms and repercussions. Take the case of eosinophilic asthma, for instance. This particularly severe form of asthma is often resistant to traditional treatments, meaning that the child may have persistent symptoms and require more visits to the ER.
Although certain pieces of promising research have found new forms of treatment for the disorder, we still have to wait for the NHS to approve them. However, one promising treatment that was recently approved is Mepolizumab, which is a monoclonal antibody that can target IL5, one of the main causes of the inflammation and symptoms caused by the condition. Research suggests that this treatment could reduce the yearly number of exacerbations that need emergency assistance by 77 percent, and the amount of yearly clinically significant exacerbations by 69 percent.
How Asthma Affects Children
Despite all the difficulties faced by parents and other families, we must never forget who has to suffer the most in this situation, and it’s the child. Not only do children have to deal with the symptoms, but also with the worry that their condition is placing additional stress on their families. They might also feel guilty if the relationship between their parents becomes strained, even though their condition may have nothing to do with it.
There is also everything that comes with managing, controlling, and treating symptoms. Asthma is a condition that can affect all parts of your life, even if it’s only a minor annoyance. But sufferers have to accept the fact that they’ll never be able to live a completely “normal” life. Not being able to participate in particular sports or at the level they’d like can have a social and emotional impact on them.
Many children suffering from asthma and chronic disease end up dealing with a loss of self-esteem. In one particular study, 41 percent of parents who had a child suffering from asthma claimed that their child felt self-pity as a result of the condition. 21 percent said that their child had a poor image of themselves, and 23 percent stated that their children were having difficulties maintaining good relationships with their peers.
Considering the evidence provided, parents should never neglect the psychological effects of asthma, and should work on both fronts in order to make sure that it doesn’t fuel other psychological symptoms.
Asthma is a serious condition that affects millions of families. However, with the right education, tools, and support, a child can regain a sense of normalcy, and come to live with and accept it. It all starts with a solid foundation, and parents who are ready to seek the care and assistance that they and their child need.