LIVING WITH CHRONIC CONDITIONS: The word “chronic” is used to describe an illness, such as diabetes or asthma, that is long-lasting, and whose symptoms are present on a daily bases or flare up occasionally. In contrast, an acute illness, such as tonsillitis, comes on suddenly and the duration of symptoms is quite short. Chronic conditions may be lifelong and you, your family, and your child will need to make some changes in your lifestyle in order to cope with the condition on a day-to-day basis.
DEALING WITH ILLNESS: The most common emotional reaction to the news that your child has a chronic condition is anxiety, combined with fear, bitterness, and possibly guilt that you yourself have done something to cause the condition. After the initial shock, many parents become very involved in learning about their child’s condition and how to manage it. The first thing you need to know is what the treatment program entails – this may be daily injections, occasional blood transfusions, or just making sure that your child always carries inhaler. You will also need to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of an attack or possible dangers to your child, and learn what to do in an emergency.
When your child first starts to show signs of a chronic condition, apart from the physical unpleasantness of being ill, he will more than likely find the experience of visiting doctors and hospitals quite stressful. Stay calm in front of your child and don’t worry or panic. He will see your anxiety and interpret it in his own way; he may even become terrified that he is going to die. Talk to your child rationally about his condition and explain what is happening to him. If he does not understand what is wrong with him this can be more frightening than the illness itself.
Because you are worried about your child’s health it is quite natural for you to pay attention to him. Be careful, however, not to include other members of your family, especially if you have any other children.
Research is conducted into chronic conditions, and management programs are becoming more advanced – in most cases your child will be able to live a near-normal life.
An estimated 4 million children under the age of 18 in the U.S. suffer from asthma. It is responsible for 100,000 hospital admissions of children each year in the U.S. Boys are twice as likely as girls to suffer from asthma.
A child who has asthma will suffer recurrent attacks of breathlessness with wheezing when she tries to exhale. These attacks are caused by narrowing of the bronchioles (the small airways in the lungs). They vary greatly in severity, but even a mild attack can be frightening in a young child. Over 30 percent of children affected by asthma grow out of the condition by adulthood.
Risk factors The reasons for the increase in rates of asthma are not entirely known, although parental smoking, pollution, viruses, and low birth-weight are all possible factors. Smoking is the only factor that has been proven, particularly if a woman smokes during pregnancy, and if she or her partner smokes during their child’s early years.
The rising levels of air pollution caused by factories and vehicles are increasingly being blamed for the growing numbers of asthma sufferers. Vehicle exhaust fumes, for example, have increased by 75 percent since 1980, though all new cars now have catalytic converters to reduce the fumes.
There is no simple way of preventing asthma. Breastfeeding is often recommended over bottle-feeding for a number of good reasons, but has not been shown to prevent the onset of asthma. At best there is a delay in the onset of symptoms.