Don't Let Asthma Be The Bully


By Stephen Apaliski, MD

Today, my son, Chris, is 30 years old, but I can still recall him at age 12, when a neighborhood child bullied him. Finding out about the bullying back then, my wife and Icontrolling asthmamanaged to put a stop to it.

We were—and are—not alone in having to handle this kind of problem. Bullying continues everywhere today, though thankfully society seems far more aware of it and is addressing the problem head on. Ultimately it is our duty as parents to help put an end to it.

With all this talk of bullying these days, there is one idea many of us may not have yet considered. If your child has asthma that is not well controlled, you are living every day with a bully. Yes, uncontrolled asthma is just that, a bully. It can cause your child to waken at night with coughing or wheezing, prevent your child from participating in physical activities and sports, send your child to the hospital, cause your child to miss school, and at it’s worst, kill him or her. You would not accept these threats from a person. Do not tolerate them from asthma!

More than half of people who have asthma live with less than optimal control. Asthma is not curable, but in most cases it can be better managed. In the book, Beating Asthma, we present seven principles to follow to help you obtain the best control possible for you.

First, you must understand that asthma is a chronic illness. It is present even when not causing symptoms. After an asthma attack, the asthma is still there, lying in wait to strike again. It must always be managed, not forgotten.

Next, various things can trigger asthma symptoms. If you understand exactly what triggers your child’s asthma, avoiding these things can help prevent acute attacks. Allergens are one example of a trigger. If you know that exposure to a cat causes problems, avoiding cats will be of major importance to your child. There are also non-allergic triggers such as strong odors, perfumes and air pollution that need to be avoided.

Another point to understand: Asthma can be monitored not only by the presence or absence of symptoms, but also through objective tests of lung function. These can be done either in the doctor’s office (pulmonary function tests) or personally by using a peak flow meter. As with checking blood-pressure readings in hypertension, or blood glucose readings in diabetes, one can track how well controlled their asthma is. Regular testing helps you identify problems early or simply confirm that your child’s treatment is going well.

The next principle is the proper use of medications, not too little, not too much. The type and amount of medication used must be customized for each child.  In the past year I have taken care of a young child with uncontrolled asthma who was visiting the ER on a regular basis. Once we got him on the correct medicines, the ER visits stopped.

Having a positive mindset is also an important part of gaining control over asthma.  This involves a combination of optimism, ownership and grit. With a positive mindset, you understand that you own your asthma and that controlling it is ultimately your responsibility. You are not a victim and you manage your asthma in the context of believing that improvement is possible.

The next key ingredient is working with a knowledgeable physician in a collaborative relationship. Together you can develop a plan of action. Interestingly, it has been shown that the best asthma outcomes are obtained when working with an asthma specialist such as an allergist. Asthma care by allergists results in a huge reduction in the need for ER visits, hospitalizations, time lost from school and work, and the need for sick-care office visits!  On the Beating Asthma website you will find guidelines for when to see an allergist for help with asthma treatment. (

Lastly, working with your physician you can develop an asthma action plan. This plan will outline the steps you need to take when your asthma worsens. It is a powerful tool. Having this plan either written down or in your mind will remind you of what to do when an asthma attack occurs.

Armed with this information, you will be able to confront the bully known as uncontrolled asthma and, as with all bullies, put it in it’s proper place!

About The Author:

Dr. Stephen Apaliski has been a practicing physician for over 30 years. He is Board Certified in Pediatrics as well as Allergy & Immunology. In addition, he is a Fellow of the American College of Allergy and Immunology and a Board Member of the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America—Texas chapter. 

In addition to seeing patients in his medical practice at the Allergy & Asthma Centers of the Metroplex and conducting Clinical Trials as the Medical Director of Discovery Trials-Arlington, Dr. Apaliski is on the medical staff at THR Arlington Memorial Hospital in Arlington, Texas. Dr. Apaliski is also a speaker for various pharmaceutical companies, helping to educate physicians and other health care providers about the diagnosis and treatment of asthma and allergic diseases.