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Breathing Easier; Pep Talk; Plane and Simple

Help for a child with asthma, air travel, and motivating young athletes

For reasons not known, the incidence of asthma is on the rise. As high as 10 percent of all children will suffer from asthma at some time during childhood. This debilitating lung disease can affect even infants. While some adolescents outgrow the symptoms, asthma often sneaks back during adulthood.

How Can I Recognize Asthma?

Asthma causes inflammation of the airways. It swells the bronchial tubes, produces sticky secretions inside the breathing tubes, and contracts the muscle that spirals around the bronchial tubes.

When a child's airflow is obstructed during an asthma attack, you may hear a wheezing or whistling sound. However, not all children with asthma wheeze. A chronic cough may be the only obvious sign, and a child's asthma may go unrecognized if his dry, hacking cough is erroneously attributed to recurrent bronchitis.

What Causes Asthma?

Flare-ups are triggered most often by viral respiratory infections, cold air, exercise, tobacco smoke, and allergies. While not all children with allergies have asthma, an allergy to dust mites and cockroaches can particularly trouble kids who are predisposed to asthma. Reducing exposure to mites and cockroaches can reduce asthma symptoms.

Can Asthma Be Managed?

To control asthma symptoms, avoid environmental triggers and allergens whenever possible. For example, smoking near the child should not be permitted, especially in confined places such as a child's bedroom or a car. If your child has allergies, you've probably heard this from your pediatrician: keep Fido out of the child's bedroom!

Allergy shots may help some, although benefits to asthma sufferers have been questioned.

Although childhood asthma generally diminishes over time, about 10 percent of children with asthma require chronic use of medications. Some medicines relieve symptoms, while others prevent symptoms from developing. Oral and inhaled bronchodilators (medications that open bronchial tubes) work within 15 minutes and are called "relievers." Inhaled and oral steroids, which reduce inflammation, are called "controllers." Your doctor may also recommend a mucus thinner to increase the expulsion of mucus.

If your child is older than 5, your doctor may suggest using a peak flow meter each day to monitor breathing capacity. This hand-held instrument with a mouthpiece and calibrated meter measures your child's peak expiratory flow rate (PEF). The PEF rate tells you if your child needs more medication or if asthma symptoms are under control. Especially for the child who is unaware that she has tightness in her chest or shortness of breath, the peak flow meter can be a lifesaver. Asthma treatment is most effective when breathing problems are detected early. With preventive measures and appropriate medications, children can lead full, active lives.

—Debra Bruce
Jacksonville, FL

Pep Talk

How to motivate a young athlete

With softball season winding down and fall soccer on the horizon, you might be wondering how to keep your young athlete motivated. According to sports psychologist Darren Treasure, the best way to keep kids involved is to stop focusing on winning. Instead, he says, motivate young athletes by concentrating on mastering the skills. That reduces the pressure and gives kids other ways to define success.

Untill age 12, Treasure explains, children see effort and ability as having almost the same value. After that age, they are more likely to compare themselves with kids who have greater ability. That can lead to discouragement and a loss of interest in sports. But working on skills development is a win-win approach: it boosts the child's confidence and makes it more likely he can help his team win.

—University of Illinois News Service

Plane and Simple

What to do when you fly with kids

A car or minivan is still the preferred mode of summer travel, but many families will board planes to reach vacation destinations this month. Unlike the family car, a jumbo jet can't be pulled to the side of the road when Junior gets restless. But you can reduce the stress of flying with kids. Delta Air Lines recommends the following:

  1. Children under 2 travel free when seated on an adult's lap. But you can increase the chances of getting a free third seat by requesting an aisle seat for yourself and a window seat for your spouse. If the middle seat remains vacant, give it to your child?free.
  2. If your child has a cold or sinus problem, check with your doctor about using a decongestant prior to departure.
  3. To ease the discomfort of air-pressure changes, pack some snacks?fruit, pretzels, dry cereal, or juice?to enjoy during the flight. For younger children, use bottles, sippy cups, or pacifiers to help reduce inner-ear pressure. Chewing gum serves the same purpose for older children (and parents).
  4. Dress your family in bright colors to make it easier to keep track of one another in crowded airports.
  5. Bring a few small surprise toys—action figures, stickers, coloring books—and unveil a different one every 20 to 30 minutes.
  6. Pack in your carry-on bag a change of clothes for your children. It will come in handy in case of in-flight spills or illness-related "accidents."

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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