The Toll it Takes

One in every 15 children suffers from asthma.[i] If someone in your family falls into this group, you may already know the toll this illness takes on so many different areas - and not only for the young patient, but also you and your other children. Here are some examples of various aspects of your family that it can affect:

  • Physical wellbeing
  • Emotional state
  • Socialization
  • Activity level
  • Financial status

The Broader Impacts of an Asthma Attack

You probably already know that one of the most obvious ways that childhood asthma affects the entire family is when it manifests itself in your child's physical symptoms that make him or her sick. This is because when your child is ill, all of your attention can be focused on him or her, and your other children and their needs may need to be put aside, at least for the short-term. This can cause other family members to feel resentment and sadness if this situation continues to occur over any length of time.

In addition, if your child experiences frequent childhood asthma flare ups, this may cause your entire family to miss certain activities and you may be reluctant to plan ahead for vacations or other special events. You may all feel frustrated and disappointed about this impact on family time. Finally, your asthmatic child may need to focus effort and energy on controlling symptoms and as a result, may spend less time focused on schoolwork or making friends. This can leave your child lagging behind both educationally and also socially, which can cause him or her to feel withdrawn or depressed, further impacting the overall mood of the family.

Other Effects

Another effect of asthma on the family can be a reduction in your household income, since you may need to miss work to care for your child. Additional financial strain can also occur if your child has high medical bills or expensive prescriptions that aren't covered by your health insurance. You may also find your other children facing increased stress, fear and even embarrassment as the result of this illness. This is because they can be constantly worried about another attack occurring to their sibling and may even feel anxious and ashamed if it happens in front of their friends or even strangers.

Coping Strategies

If some of these concerns sound uncomfortably familiar, you may wonder what you can do to help minimize the strain your child's illness is taking on all of you.  The experts suggest following an asthma action plan, which will help give you control of the situation and make it easier to coordinate medication and treatment options and to stay on your child's warnings signs so you can head off attacks.[ii] You may also want to join a family support group to better understand asthma and talk about the impact on family members. Sometimes just by bringing the subject into the open and addressing concerns, you can make them feel more manageable and you may find your family can approach the situation as more of a team than a group of individuals.

You may also want to seek outside help when you feel overwhelmed. Hiring someone else to clean the house, ordering dinner already prepared or having a neighbor or friend stay with your sick child while you get out for lunch can be small things but ones that greatly help you to feel better and relieve stress for your entire family.

Finally, if you don't have health insurance or are feeling the financial strain of the illness more than you can bear, ask your pediatrician to help connect with your local, state or federal resources that might be appropriate sources of advice or support. With a little extra help, you and your whole family may all find yourself breathing easier.



[i] From and

[ii] From