Family life

Having a child with asthma or 'suspected asthma' can be hard, but it doesn’t have to stop family life running smoothly.


"We know from calls to our Helpline that asthma can have an impact on family life, whether it's learning to manage symptoms or adapting to a change of routine," says Asthma UK nurse Debby.

"The good news is that for most children, there are simple, effective ways to support them so their symptoms don’t get in the way of family life."

Your emotions

It’s not unusual to feel a mix of emotions if your baby or child has asthma or ‘suspected asthma.’

You might feel:

  • Scared about your child having an asthma attack, especially if they’re being looked after by someone else.
  • Worried if your baby or child has symptoms like cough and wheeze but is still waiting for a diagnosis, or if they’re having asthma symptoms you’re not sure how to deal with yet.
  • Relieved if your child has finally got a diagnosis after a long wait and that you have treatments to help keep their symptoms under control.
  • Determined to keep family life going on as usual, and try not to let asthma get in the way of your child’s school life and staying active.
  • Overwhelmed by all your child’s medicines and getting your child into a good routine of taking them, or by everything there is to think about like letting their childminder, school or nursery know what to do if your child gets symptoms.
  • Frustrated if your child’s asthma is affecting things you do as a family like going out for the day, or on holiday, or if you feel you don’t have the support you need.
  • Exhausted if your child has lots of night-time symptoms keeping them, and you, awake, or you’re spending lots of time in hospital.
  • Concerned about needing time off work if your child’s sick, or about making time for your partner and/or other children.

How to make family life easier if your child has asthma

Get into a good asthma routine

Although it can take a bit of getting used to, once you’re in a good routine with giving your child their preventer inhaler, you’ll realise it only takes a few minutes and won't take over family life.

A good asthma preventer routine helps your child stay well with their asthma, which means you can worry less about them having an asthma attack.

"You can find ways to make life with asthma the new normal so it becomes part of family life without feeling like a disruption or a problem. For my kids, taking their inhaler is as much part of their routine as brushing their teeth." - Sarah, mum to Thomas, 13 and William, 3.

Keep on top of your child’s asthma appointments

Your child should have a review with their GP or asthma nurse at least once a year, but if you have questions or worries in between you can always make an appointment to see them.

If you’re child’s going through a process to confirm an asthma diagnosis, or if their asthma is difficult to control, they may need more appointments.

To stay on top of things, you could use a noticeboard at home and update it with details of medical appointments, reminders to pick up new prescriptions, important phone numbers and any symptoms you’ve noticed.

If you and your partner have access to a shared calendar via email or your mobile phones, you could use that, too.

Help your child to look after their own asthma

Getting your child to gradually take more responsibility for their asthma will build their confidence and relieve some of the pressure on you.

Download a My Action Plan, specially designed for children under 12, so they can learn to recognise their symptoms and what they need to do.

As they get older they can start using their inhaler on their own. Our videos will help you show them what to do.

We've also got support and advice for your teenage children

Working life when your child has asthma

Work can be difficult if you need to take time off because of your child’s asthma, but you are entitled to a ‘reasonable’ amount of time off for dependents.

Talk to your employer about how you could make things work, for example by working from home if your child is unwell with their asthma.

If you’re finding it hard to work, perhaps because your child has severe asthma, find out how you can get a Carer’s Assessment.

Days out and holidays

Wherever you go, whether it’s just for the day or you’re going away on holiday, make sure you have your child’s reliever inhaler and their spacer with you,

And check in advance if anything’s likely to trigger your child’s symptoms, like animals and pets, cold weather, pollen or pollution.

Don’t forget emotions can sometimes trigger asthma symptoms too so be ready for symptoms if your child gets over-excited, or upset.

“I try not to let asthma stop us doing anything. You make plans around it so your life doesn’t have to change. I’ve never viewed asthma as a problem and I hope I’m passing that attitude on to my boys.” - Anna, mum to Gabriel, 10, and Beau, 5.

Get help and support for your asthma concerns

If your child has suspected asthma, has just been diagnosed with asthma, is having lots of symptoms, or has severe asthma, it can have a bigger impact on family life, and it’s natural to have worries.

"Your understanding and confidence will grow every day, but this won’t happen overnight. Give yourselves time to get used to your child’s diagnosis, and get advice from your child’s GP and asthma nurse. You'll also find useful information for parents on our website and can get support from our Helpline," says Asthma UK nurse Debby.

Your partner, other children and extended family

Caring for a child with a long-term health condition can be difficult, so it’s important to look after yourself and your family, and support each other.

You and your partner - sharing responsibility for your child's asthma makes it easier for you both

If you have a partner, you can both play a part in making sure your child takes their medicine as prescribed, and helping them manage their triggers, deal with issues at school and cope in an emergency.

For example, if you both know how and when to use your child’s medications, and go to medical appointments together, you’ll both feel more confident in dealing with their asthma.

“When George was first diagnosed at 16 months, my husband Stephen would panic when he was having an attack, which was a lot of responsibility on me. After George had experienced a few attacks, Stephen became more confident about giving him his medicine. Now he understands so much about the condition and we’ve always shared responsibility equally.” - Jayne, mum to George, 14, and Lena, 12.

Talk to each other about your child's asthma

Try to be open with your partner about how you feel about your child's symptoms, routines and appointments, and how you're managing sleepless nights or time off work.

You may discover that by talking to each other, you can share ideas for coping better, and sharing your worries could help to ease your mind.

If your child’s asthma is putting a strain on your relationship, you might benefit from some counselling through a charity like Relate.

“Simon works full-time and as I do the majority of the childcare, I’m usually the first person to deal with any of the boys’ asthma symptoms. He is my backup though. We talk a lot about anything that’s worrying us – it’s good for me to share things with him." - Anna, mum to Gabriel, 10, and Beau, 5.

Help your other children feel involved

Having a child with asthma can affect the whole family, including siblings. Here are some ideas on how to help your other children cope with their brother or sister’s asthma. 

Make sure there's time for your other children too

"It’s important that your other children feel they can approach you without worrying that their problems are a burden to you when you’re already looking after your child with asthma." says Asthma UK nurse Debby.

“The older boys have had to cope with me being away from them when our youngest, William, has had hospital stays. There have been occasions when I've had to miss their sports games, which obviously saddened me, however they understand how important it is for me to be with him when he is unwell. We make sure the older boys still get time with us as often as possible.” - Sarah, mum to Thomas, 13, George, 12, William 3 and stepson Joshua, 12.

Try not to be too over protective of your child with asthma

It’s natural to feel protective of your child with asthma, but most children whose asthma is well controlled should be able to join in normally with family life, so try to treat them the same as their siblings as much as possible.

"It’s important for your child with asthma not to feel alienated or treated differently, and their sibling(s) to see them as an equal and not someone to be fussed over and given special attention," says Asthma UK nurse Debby.


Help siblings get involved with your child’s asthma care

"Let younger children see your child with asthma taking their inhaler and explain they need it to help them breathe, while older siblings can help them take their inhaler or use their my asthma calendar," says nurse Debby.

You could show them our guide to helping a child use their inhaler.

“I feel it's very important to explain to the rest of my children what asthma is, so they have a better understanding of the illness, and are able to help Salis. His siblings are able to come and tell me when Salis is out of breath or coughing, especially when he is outside playing.” - Shakeela, mum of 5, including Sami, 6, and Salis, 12, who have asthma.

Let extended family know how to look after your child's asthma too

If your child spends time with grandparents, uncles and aunts or other relatives, it’s important that everyone knows about their asthma, especially if you’re leaving your child in their care for a while.

This includes your child’s other parent if you’re divorced or separated, and your child spends time with them.

Giving everyone a copy or photo of your child’s asthma action plan can reassure you that they have all the information they need to keep your child safe and well.

If you’re a single parent, try to build a support network so you have trusted people such as friends or relatives who can help out with your child and support you emotionally.

The NHS has advice on finding support as a lone parent, and the single parents’ charity Gingerbread also has lots of information and tips.

"My mum was always worried about looking after William, 3, as she was nervous about him having an asthma attack and wouldn’t know what to do. But now she’s watched and learned from me, including how I give him his inhaler and what his triggers and symptoms are, she’s more confident.” - Sarah, mum to Thomas, 13, and William, 3.

Need more advice?

Our specialist asthma nurses are on hand to help with any questions about your child’s asthma and how it affects family life.

Call our helpline on 0300 222 5800 or chat to them on WhatsApp 07378 606 728, 9am - 5pm Monday to Friday.

 

Last updated March 2020

Next review due March 2023