It’s easy to put yourself to the bottom of the list when caring for a child with asthma. But it’s important to stay mentally and physically well so you can enjoy a full life and have the emotional and physical energy to care for your child.
Peace of mind for parents of a child with asthma
We know from calls to our Helpline that being a parent of a child with asthma can sometimes leave you with difficult feelings. That doesn’t mean you’re not coping or doing the best you can for your family. It just means you’re human and could benefit from a bit of expert help and support. From talking to parents like you, we’ve come up with a list of the most common feelings that you might have on a bad day - read our simple advice on tackling them.
- Confused – about your child’s asthma diagnosis and the medicine they have to take.
- Frightened – that your child might have an asthma attack when you’re not there to help them, or because you’ve seen them have an asthma attack.
- Frustrated – with healthcare professionals because you can’t get an asthma diagnosis if your child has suspected asthma, or your child is resisting taking their medicines.
- Guilty – that it’s somehow your fault your child has asthma, or that you’re neglecting your other children, or because you’re having to take time off from work because of your child’s asthma.
- Isolated – because you feel you can’t talk to other parents, friends or your family who don’t understand what it’s like to look after a child with asthma.
- Overwhelmed – by the responsibility of caring for your child with asthma.
We’re here for you – and so are other parents
Whatever you’re feeling, if you’re having a bad day or need a bit of inspiration, please remember that you’re far from alone. Don’t forget that there is help and support out there for you.
It can be hard to get to grips with all the information about your child’s asthma, particularly when they’re first diagnosed, or when they’re going through the process of being diagnosed. When you just want to know how to help your child, feeling confused can be frustrating. Our section on diagnosis has lots of useful information. And remember to always ask your child’s GP or asthma nurse if you’re unsure about something. If there’s anything you don’t understand, call our Helpline on 0300 222 5800 (Mon – Fri, 9am – 5pm) and speak to one of our friendly, expert asthma nurses.
Always ask questions
“At times the information from the different professionals was not consistent – one would say he had asthma and another would say he was too young to be diagnosed and state he was a ‘happy wheezer’. It was very frustrating as in the middle of the confusion my child was unwell. I would tell others to speak up: you are your child’s voice and if you are confused, concerned or worried about anything then just ask: no question is a silly question.” - Gillian Stewart, mum to a 5-year-old.
Seek advice from your GP
“I used to be scared of what to do as I was worried about giving William too much inhaler or too little, but I went to the GP for advice and have been shown the correct inhaler technique. I am really determined to make sure I am doing it properly for William. I am definitely more confident now.” - Sarah Johnson, mum to William, 3.
It’s normal to be scared when your child is first diagnosed with asthma or they’re having symptoms. Getting the right information can give you peace of mind. Have a look at our section on managing your child’s asthma – it tells you the simple steps that can help lower your child’s risk of having an asthma attack and will help you feel more confident.
Stay calm if you can
“I would say to any parent: don’t panic. It can feel very frightening being a parent of a child with asthma. But you do get to realise what your child’s triggers and symptoms are. With time comes confidence and knowledge. In the last 18 months I’ve started to use a diary to record William’s symptoms, triggers, weather conditions that day, and puffs of reliever given. I would recommend this alongside a written asthma action plan as a guide for anyone looking after your child and for yourself to spot any patterns, such as weather changes or whether they’ve had a cold.” - Sarah Johnson, mum to William, 3.
At times, having a child with asthma can be challenging. Parents tell us they sometimes struggle to get the support they need from healthcare professionals and their child’s teachers. And it can be difficult to persuade your child they need to look after their own asthma, especially as they get older – our page on helping your child manage their own asthma has some useful expert tips.
Don’t give up until you get the help you need
“It’s so frustrating when I’ve been up all night with Oliver and I’m exhausted and I phone the doctor’s surgery and it’s engaged! If I’m on hold for a bit, I don’t give up because I recall the couple of times I hung up and regretted it later because Oliver ended up in A&E. Even if it’s a pain waiting until I get through to get an appointment, I know it’s worth it.” - Alexa Keatley, mum to Oliver, 11.
“I used to worry so much and felt really frustrated and felt like an over-the-top parent if I kept going in to school. Eventually after I'd gone in enough times they started to take George's asthma more seriously and I felt more relaxed leaving him in school. Stand your ground with the school, other parents and doctors. Mums know best. You must go with your gut instinct and never give up.” - Jayne Bettles, mum to George and Lena, now teenagers.
Be consistent with your child
“Most of the time Sami is okay taking his preventer inhaler. If he has the odd temper tantrum about taking it, it tends to be short-lived because he knows he has to take it whether he wants to or not. I do get frustrated especially when we are in a hurry, but I have to stay calm, and tend to bribe him by saying: 'You will not get a treat if you don't take your inhaler,' which usually works.” - Shakeela Riaz, mum to Sami, 6 and Salis, 12.
Some parents tell us they feel guilty their child has asthma and worry they did something wrong. It’s true that factors such as smoking during pregnancy can raise their risk. But asthma’s a common condition and there are many reasons a child can develop it. For example, having a family history of asthma or a related condition such as eczema or hay fever can raise a child’s risk. You can read more about why your child may have asthma on our Is It Asthma? page.
Instead of feeling guilty, what’s important now is to try to put your energy into helping your child look after their asthma so it doesn’t stop them doing the things they want to do in life.
Remember, it’s not your fault!
“I was shocked and in disbelief when my son Corey was diagnosed at 10 months. I had done everything I was supposed to – he was breastfed until he was 12 months old. Like any first-time mum you feel your baby is perfect and you don't think it's going to happen to you. But you have to tell yourself it’s one of those things, and read up on it as much as you can.” - Cheryl Davies Pyatt, mum to Corey (now 20).
Try not to worry what others think
“If Oliver misses time off school because of his asthma, I think it’s frowned upon and I feel like I’m being judged by the teachers for being a paranoid mum. I used to worry about this but now I’m learning all that really matters is Oliver’s health and wellbeing. Now I no longer fear what others think. And when he’s had time off he’s soon caught up again.” - Alexa Keatley, mum to Oliver, 11.
Talk to your boss
If you’re having to take time off from work to care for your child with asthma, talk to your employer. You can help them understand what you and your child have been through and why you’ve needed time off.
The key to dealing with isolation is to find some support. Write a list of everyone who could help you, even if it’s just in a small way, from family members to fellow parents. Friends and family are usually very happy to help and in fact may be wondering how they can support you. Perhaps someone could watch your child or children while you go out to see a friend or get to the gym. Having a break from things can be very therapeutic. Remember even help with small jobs can make a big difference, such as another parent collecting your child from school or a family member picking up a prescription. Make contact with other parents on our Facebook page and through our forums.
Let friends and family support you
“My parents have been brilliant. They know how to deal with asthma because of me, so I feel safe leaving the boys with them. And if I’ve been up all night with one of the boys my mum knows how I feel. She’ll come round with a meal or put a wash on. And they’re always at the end of the phone if I need to offload. I’m really lucky to have good support. It helps me get through the difficult patches.” - Anna Bonnett and her two sons Gabriel, 10, and Beau, 5.
Join a group
"Support groups for parents and wider family are a lifeline. I have found a lot of information on the internet. I’ve also found it really useful talking to people who had asthma – particularly those who were diagnosed as children and have grown up with it. It’s good to know what helps them and just talk to other people about what you’re going through.” - Sarah Johnson, mum to William, 3 and Thomas, 13.
Life can sometimes feel too busy and demanding, and when you’re caught up with worrying about your child’s asthma it’s easy to forget about looking after yourself. It’s really important to keep an eye on your stress levels and do things to relax. After all, if you’re stressed, it can be harder to take care of anyone else. So make sure you do things for yourself, whether that’s playing sport at the weekend or enjoying time out with friends. Our family life page has lots of information on keeping home life on track and enjoyable.
Take time out for yourself
“As a busy mum I don't really get a lot of time for myself but I do have a very close family who will help me if I need a bit of help when I feel unwell - which thankfully is not very often. This year I ran the London Marathon for Asthma UK and spent a year training. I have enjoyed using this as a bit of me time. I enjoy reading and cross stitching which I will do if I have a few minutes spare and I do catch up for a cuppa when I can with my friends” - Sarah Johnson, mum to William, 3 and Thomas, 13.
“It is very important that parents have some time to themselves. My way of relaxing was to go for walks and also catch up with friends. My parents helped out a lot. I used to stop over at their house and they took some of the pressure away whilst I was there.” - Jayne Bettles, mum to George and Lena, now teenagers.
Make the most of family life
“We have had to become more skilful at managing family time. Kenji is approaching national standard at swimming and is the liveliest of our three boys, too! So it’s easy to get into the habit of him having all the time and attention. We carve out time with the other children which is non-negotiable. My middle son is 11 and is a huge Northampton Town fan, so I go to the match with him every Saturday (home and away), regardless of what else is going on.” - Ernie McDade, dad to Kenji, 13, who has asthma.
Last updated June 2016