For children with cystic fibrosis, asthma or other respiratory ailments, doing nebulizer breathing treatments is often a regular part of life. Getting children to cooperate can be a challenge, though. Even after they get used to the nebulizer, children sometimes refuse to complete breathing treatments for a variety of reasons. Reward charts and cutesy nebulizers can only help so much. Although every child is different, these basic strategies helped stop the whining and resistance I experienced as a caregiver.
Focus on the positive.
Although your child needs to have an age-appropriate understanding of his illness, treatment time does not need to be an ongoing reminder of potential health problems. Instead of saying, “You’ll get sick if you don’t do your treatment” try reminding him that the breathing treatments help keep his body healthy.
Make breathing treatments fun.
Sitting alone attached to a machine can be an isolating experience. Properly using the nebulizer is the number one priority, but you can add some fun by doing low-key activities such as reading to your child, letting him play a video game, watch television or color during treatment time. Sometimes, simply staying in the same room may be enough to comfort him. Learn to read your child’s mood to see if he needs more or less interaction during a particular breathing treatment.
Let him make decisions.
It can be empowering to let your child choose when to do treatments, but multiple medications and therapies do not leave much flexibility. Instead, let him take an active role by making other decisions, such as where to sit during breathing treatments or, if appropriate, which medicine to take first.
Make breathing treatments routine.
Even if your child has the luxury of choosing treatment times (within reason), help him understand prescribed nebulizer treatments are not optional. This can help eliminate those daily “Do I have to?” discussions.
Each child’s unique personality and health considerations mean there is no one perfect formula for encouraging and completing nebulizer treatments. Your personal physician and child psychologist are the best sources of information for treating your child’s illness. Never hesitate to ask for their advice.