You’re not thrilled that your child has asthma, although you have learned to manage it over the years. But suddenly your teenager is having more episodes and she’s refusing to carry her inhaler. “It’s not cool, Mom,” she says. Management of this chronic condition can be complicated by adolescence and your child’s need to fit in.
As your asthmatic child moves into the teen years, managing this chronic illness can get tricky. She needs to take more responsibility for her own health — even while being so “over” having asthma at all. As such, your child may take some risks with health so as not to feel different from the crowd. What are you supposed to do?
Focus on prevention and maintenance
One of the best ways to manage health crises, whether your child is five or 15, is to prevent them. Understanding what triggers asthmatic symptoms can help you and your teen find ways to maintain health and head off major asthma episodes. If your child is on maintenance medications, ensuring that they are used consistently and properly will help limit the appearance of difference among your teen’s peers.
People with asthma need to make sure certain medications are readily available to them at all times, most commonly rescue inhalers. While younger children can keep an inhaler with the school nurse or depend on mom, older children need to manage inhalers themselves. For girls, tucking an inhaler in a purse is fairly easy, but for guys… well, mom can help choose clothing with extra (interior) pockets and a loose fit so the inhaler has a less-than-obvious place to live.
Enlist outside support
It’s hard to feel like you’re the “only” one dealing with a chronic condition — whether that’s reality or not. Just knowing that there are others in a peer group managing asthma can help a teenager feel more comfortable, even if they don’t become best buddies. Similarly, support groups at local medical centers and talks from trusted friends, family members and health care providers can reiterate the message you’re already sharing about taking responsibility for one’s own health. And, yes, just because it’s not you who says it can make a difference in your teen hearing the message.
Be the parent
When it comes down to it, you are the parent and you must use that authority when necessary. If your teen continually refuses to carry the inhaler or take the maintenance medications, use appropriate discipline until there is better compliance. That could include loss of privileges and privacy or other measures until your teen is better able to display responsibility for her health. Your teen needs to know that this is serious stuff.
Asthma doesn’t go away when ignored. In fact, symptoms could become worse. Working with your teen to help her manage her asthma while being part of the crowd may take some time and creativity — but in the end, both of you will breathe easier.