Asthma Mom Yearns for Kids to Enjoy the Great Outdoors

My 7-year-old daughter Mia has been diagnosed with "moderate intermittent asthma, cough variant." What that translates to in real life is painful coughing that robs her of much needed sleep, a strict daily regimen of medications that attempt to keep serious flare-ups at bay, and asthma attacks - with some episodes so severe that Mia once left the emergency room with burst blood vessels in her eyes from coughing so hard. Too often, the dark circles under her eyes display a burden of fatigue far beyond her years.

During a major flare-up, the anxiety from listening to Mia’s labored breathing has meant more sleepless nights than I can count. When her doctor prescribes strong steroids to finally calm these types of flare-ups, Mia becomes someone other than herself. She calls these steroids the crying medicine, because they cause her to have terrifying nightmares, angry outbursts and tearful fits. While short course steroidal treatments are our last resort, sometimes we simply have no other option.

As part of the asthma management plan prescribed by Mia’s doctors, we dutifully check the daily air quality forecast. We have been warned on countless occasions by our incredibly caring doctor that there is no prescription to stave off the effects of a code red air quality day - except to keep my children indoors. Keeping my children inside sometimes means missed school days, birthday parties and soccer practices, which always is the cause of heartbreak and disappointment that is also privately painful for me to enforce.

Be that as it may, uncertainty seems to be the only constant in our lives. I can never confirm my children’s participation in even the most basic outdoor activities, which most parents would never second guess, until I know the air is safe to breathe and won’t be the catalyst that could send my son or daughter to the emergency room.

What frustrates me most is that I know it doesn’t have to be this way. I know big companies that pump soot into the air we breathe can take steps to minimize the burden their emissions s have on my children’s health. I also know the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working to tighten the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for soot, which could mean less winter time spikes in particle pollution and more worry-free days for my family. In fact, the EPA estimates that 1.4 million asthma attacks could be prevented every year by implementing an updated soot standard.

It seems big polluters can always find a way to avoid taking responsibility for what is pumped out of their smokestacks. That is why when it comes to soot I am counting on President Obama to get tough on those who place profits above my kids’ health. Mr. President, what are we waiting for? My children need relief today. Together, we can make the great outdoors a place that all children can enjoy without their parents having to first check the air quality forecast.


*This blog post may be republished for noncommercial use provided the following source credit is cited: Rachael Lemire-Murphy, American Lung Association Volunteer