Asthma and Teens

The teen years can be rough for kids, and they can be even rougher for teens with asthma. The last thing they want their friends to know is that they're "different."

These tips can make parenting a teen with asthma a bit easier:

  • Many teens don't want to take medication in front of their friends, so ask your doctor if your teen's daily controller medication can be taken at home in the morning and evening. This not only can make taking asthma medication part of a morning or nighttime routine, just like brushing teeth or showering, but also lets parents make sure their kids get all the medication they need.
  • Many kids with asthma, especially teens, stop taking their daily controller medications and rely only upon their rescue medications. Controller medications work quietly in the background to control airway inflammation without the person actually feeling any immediate effects, so their benefits might go unnoticed. Not taking controller medications when needed can be dangerous and even fatal. If this becomes a concern, discuss it with your doctor immediately.
  • It's very common for teens to be in denial about having asthma, and they may stop taking medications, which can lead to more symptoms and flare-ups. If this happens, you may need to monitor your teen's care until he or she is ready to do it alone. Many parents find it helpful to use a peak flow meter (a handheld tool that can be used at home to measure breathing ability) as the final word on whether (and how much) medication is needed to prevent a flare-up.

    When peak flow readings drop, it's a sign of increasing airway inflammation. The peak flow meter can detect subtle airway inflammation and obstruction, even when someone feels fine. In some cases, it can detect drops in peak flow readings 2 to 3 days before a flare-up occurs, providing plenty of time to treat and prevent it.

    Peak flow meters never lie, so kids can't deny they're having a problem — and parents are less likely to be seen as bad guys or overprotective, forcing their kids to take medication unnecessarily.
  • Remember to maintain your teen's dignity and involvement when dealing with asthma. Older kids should be actively included in all discussions and treatment choices because ultimately they're the ones who have to take the medication regularly and deal with possible side effects.
  • Uncontrolled asthma can lead to depression and low self-esteem. These feelings may manifest in emotional outbursts and poor school performance. However, early intervention by a school counselor, teacher, or physician can encourage compliance with doctors' orders and help keep your teen's asthma under control.
  • Teens with asthma should be encouraged to live as normal a life as possible with the help of medications and thoughtful limitations. Some teens tend to shy away from normal activities such as sports and even school dances because they're afraid of having a flare-up. Others learn to use asthma as an excuse for getting out of activities and chores. Teens should understand how monitoring medication and breathing will let them do just about anything.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: August 2011

Kids Health

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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