How can I help my teen with asthma?
Adolescence is a challenging time; teens are developing independence while they are still largely dependent on their parents. Although adolescents can show great independence in some activities, they still need help and support with other activities associated with their healthcare. You can help your teen manage asthma by following these tips.
- Make sure plenty of medicine and supplies are available to your teen. Contact your pharmacy and make sure they let your teen pick up refills when needed. Take your teen to the pharmacy and walk them through the process of asking for a refill.
- Keep the Asthma Care Plan handy. Refer to it whenever your teen appears to be having symptoms.
- Look at your house and environment to reduce triggers. Help your teen anticipate tricky situations like visiting friends who have pets or family members who smoke.
- Make sure your teen’s school health office and athletic department are on board. Review your plan of care for asthma flares with school staff, and give them extra medications and spacers for use in school. Be an advocate for increasing awareness of what schools can do to reduce asthma flares and days missed due to asthma. If your teen is working, make sure there are asthma supplies at his or her work place.
- Ask your provider to prescribe a smaller chamber for use at school. Teens like these "pocket chambers" because they fit into backpacks and pockets with ease.
- Help your teen strategize ways to remember to take their controller meds. Do they need to set reminders on their cell phones or computers? Can they hang a reminder in the bathroom or kitchen? Do they want a verbal reminder? Including your teen in planning ways to remember increases their commitment and the likelihood of success.
- Schedule regular visits to your primary care provider just for asthma checks. These visits are important because they help your teen learn how to manage their asthma independently and get support from the healthcare team. Asthma check visits are in addition to regular well visits.
- Praise your teen regularly whenever you see them doing what they need to do to manage their asthma (using controller meds, checking peak flow, using spacers). Everyone loves praise and we know teens are more likely to repeat a behavior if it's recognized and admired by their parents.
- If your teen is just not keeping up with meds and is having frequent flares, ER visits and hospitalizations, think about what is going on for them. Are they being teased in school? Are they denying their asthma? Do they show signs of depression or anxiety? Many teens who are struggling emotionally and psychologically have worse flares and are not as good at controlling symptoms. Speak to your healthcare provider about this.
- Contact your insurance company and find out what specific asthma resources they have to help you and your teen. Seek out community organizations and programs that can help you access education, resources, medicines and supplies. See our resource list for helpful contacts.
Reviewed by: Eve Bosnick, MSN, CRNP
Date: January 2009