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Sylvia B., MA

I’ve been reading the stories posted by other parents who, like I am, are raising children with asthma. Many of us have experiences that are too often left out of the discussion of the impact of asthma. Recently, my five-year-old daughter’s asthma was so severe that her violent coughing caused her to vomit. While such a reaction is not commonly thought of as an effect of asthma, those of us with asthmatic children know that at times vomiting can come with the territory.

I was most struck by the guilt some among us feel when we cannot prevent our child's asthma attacks. We as parents do everything we can to protect our children, but sometimes it is impossible to follow every directive given to us by our children's doctors. Real life is far more complicated than our children's asthma management plan sometimes takes into account. And, of course, some triggers like air quality are beyond our control as individual families.

I have a unique window in the complexities of managing a child's asthma care, as I also work as an economist and study the economic impact on households of raising a child with asthma. The costs extend far behind the price of your child's medications or co-pays at the pediatrician's office. The reality is that managing asthma entails costs not faced by other families. Parents with asthmatic children spend extra time cleaning to reduce asthma triggers in the home, caring for children whose asthma is too aggravated to attend school, and monitoring their child's health. The biggest burden is often the overwhelming stress of having a sick child. These are all real costs associated with the challenges of having an asthmatic child.

It's interesting to note that the traditional methodologies those in my profession use to calculate the "human" cost of asthma is very different than the economic models I have been working to develop. As an example, say for six months you do everything exactly as your pediatrician directs and your child doesn't have an attack. Common economic models would say that the cost of your child's asthma is zero. Of course, we all know that figure fails to include the cost of preventative medicines, co-pays, and not to mention, your extra effort to maintain a virtually dust-free home.

It's not that the greater costs associated with raising a child with asthma is something that we as parents resent, but is merely an issue that needs to be better acknowledged when setting air quality standards—another topic I am now researching.

Undoubtedly, healthy air is essential to our children's health. As attempts to weaken the Clean Air Act continue, I believe it is important that we as parents continue to make our voices heard and to ensure the costly emotional and financial reality of raising a child with asthma is not overlooked by our decision makers in Congress.

First Published: April 26, 2012

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