Both of my children have asthma, the kind that is triggered by respiratory infections. That means that anytime they catch a cold, there is the potential for them to have a full-fledged asthma attack, tight breathing, or wheezing.
Compared to other asthma sufferers, they don’t have it too bad, and I am eternally grateful for that. Nothing besides viruses seems to trigger attacks, and their asthma symptoms have lessened as they’ve gotten older. My 9-year-old rarely even gets asthma symptoms anymore with viruses, and I’m hoping that my 4-year-old will outgrow it eventually.
But that doesn’t minimize the fact that I’ve had some really scary experiences with asthma, and still do from time to time — not to mention the fact that kids get a million colds a year and what might be a nuisance to some always amounts to a special kind of hell for my family (i.e., keep your damn germs away from me).
I only personally know a handful of parents whose children have asthma, but when I looked up asthma statistics from the CDC, I found out that 8.6% of children have asthma. It doesn’t sound like a whole lot in a way, but that’s actually 6.3 million children. When I saw that number, I didn’t feel quite so alone.
The thing is, having a child with a chronic condition like asthma can make you feel totally alone. You feel like you’re the only one feeling scared, anxious, or overwhelmed. But you’re not.
In a way, having an asthmatic child is a very particular experience, something that only someone who has been there understands. Watching your child struggle to take in air, watching their little chest rapidly contracting, feeling their tiny heart beating out of their chest — and wondering how quickly things will escalate before they get help — is truly terrifying.
Here are other some experiences only asthma parents understand:
– Lying awake in the middle of the night, hand on your child’s chest, feeling them breathe, wondering if an attack is beginning.
– Holding a nebulizer mask over a sleeping child’s face at 3 a.m., hoping the medicine works so you don’t have to rush to the emergency room.
– Feeling anxious at the first sign of a cold, dreading allergy season, or finding out that your child has been exposed to a trigger, and knowing that days of treatment and sleepless nights are in store.
– Always having to bring medicine and equipment with you everywhere you go, and worrying that a school or caregiver won’t know how or when to administer the medicine properly.
– Arguing with your insurance company when the medicine that you’ve used for years is no longer covered, and having to deal with “pre-authorizations” and endless insurance red tape.
– The night after your child is given a liquid steroid and is literally bouncing off the walls, leaving you wondering why no one warned you this would happen.
– The first time your baby or toddler has an attack, rushing to the emergency room, certain he won’t make it.
– Having to hold a nebulizer mask over a screaming toddler who is doing everything in their power to push it away.
– That amazing moment after the medicine has been administered and you see your child’s breath moving a little bit easier — just a bit — and you start to think your child will be okay.
Being able to breathe is a basic tenant of living, and when your child is struggling with it, your mama bear instincts are in full force. No matter how many times my kids have asthma symptoms or attacks, even though I know it will be fine once I give them their medicine, I still get panicky. Watching your child’s tight breathing, and seeing that worried look on their face is something that no parent should have to witness.
But we asthma parents have no choice, and we step up to the plate like badasses. We stay on top of our kids’ prescriptions, take them to their asthma checkups, and take time out of our days to administer their medications. And no matter how seasoned we are, we still have our scares — rushing our kids to the ER in the middle of the night and spending many nights a year wide awake with our kids until they are breathing again.
So here’s a special shout-out to all the asthma parents out there: It’s hard, sometimes a nuisance, and quite often terrifying, but we are all doing what we need to do to keep our children safe. We aren’t doing it for praise or admiration, but we all deserve both of those things.