Erica is the READY Study Coordinator for the Asthma Prevention and Control Program
For the Commonwealth’s youngest residents, the burden of asthma is great.
Although asthma impacts people of all ages, children ages 0 – 4 have the highest rates of asthma hospitalization and emergency room visits compared to all other age groups in the state, and these rates have been rising. Nearly 1 out of 8 children ages 0 – 4 currently have asthma in Massachusetts. While asthma is a chronic condition, it can be controlled with proper medication management and by reducing things in the environment that can make asthma symptoms worse. These are called asthma triggers and they can include dust, furry or feathered pets, mold, tobacco smoke, and certain cleaning products.
Many children ages 0 – 4 spend time in childcare outside of their home, in either center-based or home-based settings. To ensure that these caregivers are able to provide the best care possible for children with asthma, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Asthma Prevention and Control Program, along with partners in the childcare community, is preparing a guidance document for child care settings. This document will give child care providers the tools they need to support the best asthma management practices for the children in their care through education on proper medical management and reducing exposure to asthma triggers. The report is expected to be available in early 2013. To learn more, visit www.mass.gov/dph/asthma.
What can you do if your young child has asthma?
Talk to your child’s health care provider about getting an Asthma Action Plan. An asthma action plan shows what kind of medicine your child should take and when. It also explains what to do if asthma symptoms get worse. Be sure to get extra copies of the Asthma Action Plan for all of your child’s caregivers, including child care centers or grandparents.
If your child attends child care and you notice your child is having mild asthma symptoms, like a mild cough, or has a cold, tell the childcare staff. Sometimes parents are afraid that if they tell childcare staff that their child is sick then they won’t be able to leave their child. If a child has asthma, it is better for childcare staff to know, so they can be prepared to monitor the child and take action if the symptoms get worse.
Talk with your childcare provider about how to best communicate every day about your child’s asthma. This might include a written note or form that can be filled out daily. Be sure to include any changes in symptoms, medications, or asthma triggers while in childcare.
Talk to staff at your child care site about the things that trigger your child’s asthma. Work with the staff to reduce asthma triggers in the child care environment. This could mean washing stuffed animals, sheets, blankets and other bedding in hot water weekly to reduce dust mites or using less-toxic, certified, cleaning products when possible.
Talk to your childcare provider about how your child can best stay active with asthma. Children with asthma should be able to run around and play on a playground like other children, without struggling to breathe. However, for some children, exercise can trigger an asthma attack. Let your childcare provider know if exercise is a known trigger for your child’s asthma. Encourage them to watch your child closely during exercise and have rescue medication nearby.
Get involved. The Massachusetts Asthma Action Partnership is holding a summit on Tuesday November 27th titled Improving Asthma Control and Protecting Children's Environmental Health in Child Care Settings. The summit will focus on exploring challenges and opportunities to creating and sustaining healthy, asthma friendly environments for young children. For more information, or to register, please visit their website.