For many parents or care givers, having your teenager start taking care of their own asthma is a scary time.
Mother of two Tracy Ellem felt this first-hand when her son Harrison recently started his first job.
In the beginning, Tracy was concerned that 14-year-old Harrison would find it difficult to speak up about his asthma in the workplace.
“I think the stigma and him feeling he wants to fit in and not stand out as someone different is a real issue at his age,” said Tracy.
“Also, as he is fairly well most of the time, I have to remind him not to fall for a false sense of security.”
Harrison’s job was working on a farm. This put him at risk of triggers that he wasn’t used to facing at home or school.
“I was weeding and feeding animals including chickens, pigs and cows and mowing large grassed areas on a ride on mower,” said Harrison.
Harrison knew that exercise triggered his asthma and that he gets hay fever symptoms from an allergy to grass seeds. This made working on the farm quite hard.
He also admits that despite noticing his asthma was flaring up, he was hesitant to tell those around him.
“At first I did not want to tell work but dad and mum suggested it in case something happened while there without them,” Harrison said.
“I also needed to take a fair amount of time off due to flare-ups.”
While Harrison ultimately gave up his job at the farm in order to try working somewhere that didn’t trigger his asthma so much, he admits that staying on top of his asthma medication is something that isn’t always front of mind at his age.
“I am not great at taking my meds at present,” he revealed.
Mum Tracy has done everything she can to ensure that Harrison had all the tools he needed to manage his own asthma, despite the fact “he is a typical teen and avoids meds where he can”.
“It has been scary but with our help he knows what to do,” said Tracy.
“A big one is feeling like other people in the community such as school, scouts and other social places like his work know how to recognise symptoms and what they can do if he has an asthma attack.”
“We also just did his first proper first aid course and it was nice to see many things he remembered to look out for and do.”
Tracy said the family had to be particularly on guard during spring, with allergic rhinitis and thunderstorm asthma being a concern.
“Both Harrison and I get allergic rhinitis and I often get chronic sinus infections,” she said.
Asthma and allergies are closely linked, and 80% of people with asthma also have allergic rhinitis.
To learn more about taking care of your health this spring, visit our Asthma and Allergy Hub here.
For Tracy, she understands that living with asthma is a long journey but has found Asthma Australia’s resources helped her to navigate the process.
“Harrison has had breathing and allergic issues since only a few months old and we have learnt a lot along the way,” she said.
“Asthma Australia was a life saver for knowledge as well a local Asthma Educator nurse at John Hunter Hospital, which our doctor referred us to.”
If you are a parent or carer concerned about your child and how they can manage their asthma outside the home, or if you have any other breathing-related questions, get in contact with one of our Asthma Educators here.