SUPPORTING TEENS WITH ASTHMA: AN INTERVIEW WITH PEDIATRIC ALLERGIST, DR. AUTUMN BURNETTE

The Next Breath Editorial Team

December 2020

11/7/2020 12:00:00 AM

Image shows Dr. Autumn Burnette smiling

TIPS & RESOURCES

Dr. Autumn Burnette is a board-certified physician in Allergy and Immunology and also in Pediatrics. She serves as an Assistant Professor at Howard University Hospital in the Allergy Division. We sat down to discuss her advice for teens and their caregivers on managing asthma.

Q: What are some of the main challenges that a teen with asthma may experience? What advice would you have to help overcome this?

  • Image shows Dr. Autumn Burnette smiling Image shows Dr. Autumn Burnette smiling

    Dr. Autumn Burnette, MD

    A: Teens with asthma are an interesting demographic. One of the main challenges is that teens can be shy and may not feel confident in communicating their needs – especially when it comes to their health. That’s why it’s crucial to have collaborative discussions with teens, caregivers and doctors. The caregiver can support the teen in communicating and also share any additional information that may be helpful.

    Another major challenge that I see in my clinic is that teens often struggle to identify their asthma symptoms. To help overcome this, I typically recommend we work together to develop an Asthma Management Plan. Teens and their caregivers can use this plan as a reference tool to help track their symptoms.

    For a teen who is transitioning into adulthood, or even possibly leaving home for the first time, an Asthma Management Plan can be of great help, especially as they begin going to doctor's appointments independently, without their caregivers by their side.

Q: How does asthma impact the relationship between a parent and their teenager?

  • A: Teenagers are old enough to start making decisions for themselves and rationalizing what’s in their best interests, including for their health. This can be hard for caregivers because they want to give their teen some independence, but at the same time make sure they are not missing something important. That’s a fine balance to achieve.

    When I talk to teens and caregivers, I say that we are all on the same team. I help to facilitate a forum for communication so that every party can share their concerns. My appointment room is a safe space for teens and caregivers to be honest; if something's not working, we are going to come up with a plan B together.

    Everyone has the ability to express their concerns, and I will consider all concerns to be legitimate.

Q: What is the role of the caregiver in helping teens navigate asthma?

  • A: The way people explain their asthma symptoms can be subjective, so it’s important that I hear from the caregiver, too. They can share details on readily observable symptoms – such as wheezing or coughing in the night – that the teen may have “normalized” or not thought to communicate during a consultation.

    Regardless of their age, all asthma patients have a different journey, so I always take a comprehensive approach. This means asking caregivers for additional details about the health of their teenager, such as how many days of school the teen has missed or how often they visited the emergency room because of their asthma. In addition, I ask about day-to-day life, such as the dynamics of the teen’s home setting, their school life, and if they take part in any sports or extracurricular activities – all of which a caregiver can share.

Q: What advice do you have for any teens living with asthma?

  • A: There are a few key pieces of advice I give to teens:
    • Always keep routine medical appointments. Asthma is a disease of variability that can and does change over time, especially during teenage years, so regular checkups are important. This can be done in person and sometimes via telehealth/online appointment.
    • Make sure that all caregivers, including at school, have access to relevant paperwork, including their Asthma Management Plan.
    • Peer pressure exists. It’s perfectly OK to say no if they face a situation that could trigger their symptoms. Any real friends will completely understand if they simply explain why.
    • It’s important to be up-to-date with vaccinations and follow recommended public health protocols to protect health.

Dr. Burnette recommends a range of resources for people who would like to learn more about asthma and managing their condition, including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Allergy and Asthma Network, and Mayo Clinic.

RES.20.10.0019 | December 2020

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Moving the future of asthma forward, together

Working together, we can bring more awareness to severe asthma,
illuminate the latest science and empower people to take action
to strive for better asthma control.

Start using your next breath today to inspire others to get informed and
check back soon to find more ways to get involved.

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