I sat down with four kids (ages 5 through 11) to hear what they knew about asthma. I had no expectations other than I would be delighted by their cute answers. I left with a few chuckles, of course, but also some real questions about the topics that kids learn (or don’t learn) in school. I’m glad they have an innocence and don’t have to comprehend a myriad of heavy subjects – asthma being one.
What is asthma?
James, 9: When you can’t breathe and it’s hard to breathe.
Savanah, 11: Asthma? It’s when you can’t breathe and need an inhaler.
Crystal, 5: I don’t know! I mean I watched stories and they talk about it, but I don’t know what they’re saying. Robots teach you what it is.
Mordecai, 9: Yes I do! When you start itching a lot. You feel really drowsy and tired. You sneeze a lot.
Do you know anyone with asthma?
James: My mommy and my cousin.
Crystal: My big brother had trouble breathing and he had to take an inhaler. I saw it before. They’re different colors, blue and yellow. He gets it when he’s overeating.
Savanah: My brother. I’ve seen him with an inhaler. He gets it when he’s running around a lot. It takes a lot of breaths to run around.
Mordecai: No, but I saw an inhaler. There’s the thing where you suck it up and one where you blow in it. People say it tastes nasty!
Did you know I have asthma?
Surprised looks all around.
Crystal: Oh! I saw you with your inhaler.
Savanah: I think Uncle told me once.
Has it ever been hard to breathe, and what do you do?
James: I breathe through my mouth.
Mordecai: Never had. I do hold my breath sometimes, but when I hold my breath I only do it few minutes.
Savanah: Yes, when I had a cold.
Do you know how to help someone who may not be able to breathe?
James: I don’t know what to do. I pray for them.
Savannah: To help them, I would get their inhaler.
Crystal: I try to help give them water or something.
Mordecai: Lob them in the chest and start patting their back really hard!
Kids are taught a lot of things in schools – from dinosaurs to presidents. They have science classes of course as they progress, but after interviewing these youths, I began to wonder if health classes that have more to do with how the body works than just reproduction would be helpful.
Children have their own health challenges, and many of them live with parents and siblings that also battle any number of conditions. What would it look like if we equipped them with simple teachings about how to respond in health emergencies or what certain health ailments might mean for their friends or loved ones?
I enjoyed learning about dinosaurs, and yes, it was cool to see mammoth skeletons in museums, but it was also helpful when shows like Sesame Street and Mister Rogers covered topics about health or disease. I’ve been pleased to see more books for kids about asthma and other conditions. These are real things kids deal with in life.
Photo Credit: Klaus Vedfelt / DigitalVision via Getty Images
Important: The opinions expressed in WebMD Blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. Blogs are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.
Do not consider WebMD Blogs as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.