- When asthma is in poor control, children miss an average of 18 days of school versus only 0 to 2 days missed among children whose asthma is in good control. Children may fall behind when they miss school frequently, and parents may need to miss work during school absences.
- Children whose asthma is in poor control do not play sports or run around, either at their best or at all. When in good control, children with asthma can excel in sports and even become great athletes (Olympic medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee has asthma.)
- Poor asthma control can affect a good night’s sleep for everyone in the family.
- Uncontrolled asthma leads to inconvenient emergency room visits. It also leads to hospitalization.
Although infrequent, asthma can be a killer. People who have died from asthma often did not have regular check-ups to deal with their asthma or did not remove asthma triggers from their homes.
Scheduling planned-care asthma visits, which are regular check-ups with your child’s doctor, can help to decrease the odds of having any of the poor outcomes listed above, because the reality is that, over time, asthma control may vary. Sometimes it’s poor. Sometimes it’s not bad but it’s also not very good. Other times it’s great. Many things can lead to these changes.
The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) recommends yearly visits for intermittent asthma, six-month visits for mild persistent asthma, four-month visits for moderate persistent asthma, and three-month visits for severe persistent asthma. (However, when loss of asthma control lasts for more than a few weeks, or if your child has required an evaluation for an asthma attack in the doctor’s office, urgent care or emergency room or has been hospitalized, additional visits may be needed.)
These regular check-ups will help you see if any medical or environmental factors are causing poor asthma control. During planned visits, therefore, your doctor reviews and addresses:
- Proper use of medications and medication delivery devices
- Problems or concerns with medications
- Personal goals for asthma control
- Deciding among treatment alternatives
- Managing triggers in the home
- Monitoring lung function over time
- Family needs for additional education
- Asthma’s impact on the child’s quality of life
Based on what you discuss, you and your child’s doctor can then adjust the treatment plan to help your child either maintain or regain control. Having visits when your child is not having an asthma attack helps your pediatrician see how good or bad your child’s asthma usually is. Maybe your child has been in good control for enough time that the doctor may tell you to step down treatment a notch or two. Planned-care asthma visits help to identify who can step down and who should step up treatment.
When people see their doctors regularly and have a plan for taking care of their asthma, they are more likely to use their medicine as instructed, get rid of triggers that irritate their lungs, and be more successful in controlling their asthma.
You also need an effective plan to help you know how to increase treatments during attacks or at times when symptoms worsen for your child. The earlier you make changes to the treatment for poor control or during attacks, the greater the likelihood that simple changes may be enough.
The NHLBI/National Institute of Health’s Expert Guidelines for asthma provide a whole host of recommendations for managing asthma, including regular planned asthma visits. Speak with your child’s doctor about the frequency of planned-care asthma visits that would be best for your child, and schedule your child’s next visit. Take control of your child’s asthma!